Prayas Theatre Company explores the Kiwi-Indian experience in original play

Prayas theatre company spent time researching the history of Indians living in New Zealand.
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Prayas theatre company spent time researching the history of Indians living in New Zealand.

Despite being a Kiwi Sananda Chatterjee still gets told to go back to where she came from.

The Indian-born Aucklander has co-written Swabhoomi: Borrowed Earth, an original play which explores the 150 year history of Indians living in New Zealand.

Set to be performed by Auckland-based Prayas Theatre Company, the show mixes fact with fiction and shares various stories of the Indian experience in New Zealand. 

Playwright Sananda Chatterjee says she lives in the "interesting space" between two cultures.
HUGH COLLINS/FAIRFAX NZ

Playwright Sananda Chatterjee says she lives in the "interesting space" between two cultures.

It explores as far back as Indians arriving during the Otago gold rush in the 19th century, right through to the recent deportation of Indian students. 

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Moving to New Zealand around 15 years ago, Chatterjee said Prayas regarded the play as an exercise in researching the history of Indians in New Zealand.

"We've talked about migration in kind of an almost romanticised way but we wanted to get to the ground realities and find the history of Indians in New Zealand which you don't really hear about a lot," Chatterjee said. 

"I'm as Kiwi as I can be, at the same time being just as Indian, it's a really interesting space."

Joining Prayas as an usher in 2005, Chatterjee worked her way up the company to be assistant director of its 2015 show A Fine Balance.

Chatterjee said despite New Zealand being home she still experienced discrimination with people having told her to go back to where she came from.

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"You still keep getting that 'you're a migrant' look at all times, it doesn't matter how long your family has been here." 

As a result Swabhoomi aims to show that while everyone may come from different backgrounds, essentially we are all the same.

"At some point people have to stop feeling threatened," she said. 

"In this country everybodys a migrant and we've all come from somewhere.

"We do the same things, we might have slightly different food preferences but we have the same goals in life. That is to be settled, to have opportunities, to have opportunities for our kids and things like that."

Swabhoomi: Borrowed Earth performs at TAPAC in Western Springs from May 25 to June 4.

 

 - Stuff

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