We’ve all seen it. A public library hangs up a few red lanterns and a six-year old’s painting of a dragon framed by some buchaechum fans. Oh, and there’s also a cotton candy vendor outside. Gong xi fa cai, bitches. We’re cultured.
Culture is often thought of as a diversion from what is natural to everyday life, leaving so much room for reductive and one-dimensional views of important parts of people’s identities. Because of this, some cultures are easier to identify than others, but that doesn’t mean that only certain people are allowed to have one. If there’s one thing we share as Auckland students in a time like now, its grit, resilience and adaptability at our best, and loneliness, procrastination and a lack of work-life boundaries at our worst.
Although culture is everywhere and in every issue of Craccum, space should always be afforded for people to talk about their ethnic cultures. This is why there is a particular focus on place, language and movement in this issue.
Maybe you’ve had your pride, roots and language completely erased in a Pākehā-conforming high school to the extent that you’re more homogenised with your entire cohort than a 3L bottle of milk. Maybe you’ve lived in three cities prior to Tāmaki Makaurau and half-spoken four languages and you just resort to saying [average suburb] when people ask, “where are you from?” Or maybe, you’re bordered off from your family at home, and you’re making dedicated trips out to the imported groceries shop for a home-cooked meal that momentarily takes you back to your grandma’s place.
These feelings about culture can never be reflected in a few display cabinets of exotic trinkets, or by drenching your green outfit from Look Sharp in Guinness on St Patrick’s Day. People are more complex than that, and we need their stories. You’ll notice that many in this issue aren’t sugar coated. Culture is often celebrated, but rarely given space to be challenged or reflected on with honesty.
Culture is neither given enough space to be disagreed on between those people who identify with the same one. While we’re both labelled ethnically Chinese, we speak different dialects, have different preferences for food, and (unfortunately) different tolerances for spice. Most importantly, we have unique ways for identifying with our own culture. Our upbringing and backgrounds shape us, and naturally affect our experience and perspectives on culture too.
Of course, ethnic culture is only one fragment of the wider culture umbrella, and for some of us, it may not be the biggest contributing factor to shaping our lives. For all of us, student culture fuels our experience at university. In other cases, some might turn to cultures inspired by art forms as a means for freedom of expression.
What’s ultimately most important is how we all connect with culture, and how our own interactions create the biggest impact on our lives. The title of this week’s editorial is that culture is experienced, and not defined. Our hope is that with our contributors relaying their personal stories, it inspires you to connect with your culture in your own way, whatever that may be.
We’re turning celebration of culture up to another level here at Craccum. This isn’t folding paper lanterns in the teen section of your local library.
Eda Tang (she/her) and Brian Gu (he/him)
Co-Editors of Craccum 2021