As another May rolls around, we celebrate another Asian Heritage Month and all of the bullshit and joy that comes with it. Not that we shouldn’t usually celebrate our Asian heritage and culture, it’s just that most of the time we’re too caught up with living it to celebrate it.
As we’ve learned through Google, our zodiacs represent a harmony between yin and yang. Flora, the dragon, and Naomii, the tiger. Not to read too much into Chinese zodiacs or be too superstitious, but our zodiacs apparently have very high compatibility—to no one’s surprise. We’ve always said we’re essentially the same person but in different fonts. Of course, it doesn’t literally mean we’re the same person—God knows we’ve encountered the racist “all Asians look the same” attitude too many times.
What we mean is that being of the diaspora often comes with shared experiences. There are nuances, but there are also a lot of similarities. We come from different parts of Asia, for example. But both of our families have brought our culture and identity to a new place, and both of our families have had to navigate the line between survival and tradition, assimilation and heritage. Often, we exist between two worlds, and it’s hard to tell which one is our home and which one we belong to. Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s neither.
And maybe we exist in a new space, one that’s hard to define. One made up of red undies on Chinese New Year and drinking beersies on Crate Day. One where we watch Sex and the City on repeat while acknowledging its Eurocentricity. One where we switch between English and (sometimes broken) Shanghainese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hokkien. One where bubble tea is embraced but chicken feet are still derided. One where we have to come up with another list item so that the paragraph doesn’t end after unlucky number four.
It’s hard to trace the exact paths that got us here. There’s a long, complicated history of violence, colonialism, and unrest between Asia and the West. And then there’s more local context: exclusionary immigration policies based on ethnicity were only abolished in 1987.
As teenagers, we couldn’t tell you why we disavowed our culture so avidly and argued with our parents. Maybe it’s intergenerational trauma, maybe it’s internalised racism. But as adults, we recognise the centuries of geopolitics that enable us to call Aotearoa New Zealand our home. Our past shapes the present, but we shape the future.
Our heritage is one of loss and hardship, but it’s also one of determination, strength, and bravery. We’re migrants. And those generations of adaptation and struggle only compound to create something new. Diamonds are created under pressure, after all. Decolonisation is a verb, not a noun. And acknowledging, unpicking—and yes—celebrating our heritage is only the first step. In Aotearoa, the next is acknowledging our role as tangata tiriti, and supporting tino rangatiratanga.
So, in this issue, among the articles that will hopefully make you laugh or feel some kinda way, we: celebrate success, talent, and self-acceptance; explore different aspects of uni life and student culture; and question the representation of marginalised groups and the beliefs we held as children.
Because our shared heritage is more than intergenerational trauma: it’s a chance at a new beginning.
Flora Xie (she/her) and Naomii Seah (she/her)