A flowing culture: Images of early Gujarati Indian-Islamic migrants in Aotearoa New Zealand

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Author: Rafik Patel
Date: June 2017
From: Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration(Vol. 1, Issue 2)
Publisher: Intellect Ltd.
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 6,848 words

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Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990) sets up an imaginative tale of a father and son's journey in search of happiness. In this fictional reality the ocean is filled with a sea of stories that manifest the hope of a new beginning. This story also takes the reader on a whimsical journey that is non-linear. It sways back and forth like the currents of the ocean, and its allegory transcends the ocean as a vessel that contains important narratives and knowledge, and as a spatial medium to cross borders and boundaries. Considering this allegory, this article presents an auto-ethnography in relation to migration of the first Gujarati Indian families to arrive in Aotearoa New Zealand, in the early 1900s. It discusses how these families integrated and began to construct and grow a new community within. Thus, this article attempts to uncover stories and a history of migration of the author's own family that flowed from South Asia to the Pacific, transferring a rich culture of Indian-Muslim faith, practice and architecture.


Aoetearoa New Zealand Gujarati Islamic-Indian family flow ethnography archive


The migrant is the political figure of our time. The figure of the migrant is not a 'type of person', or fixed identity but a mobile social position or spectrum that people move into or out of under social conditions and agencies by which various figures are socially expelled as a result of, or as the cause of, their mobility. (Nail 2015: 235)

The migrant is a figure that moves where it needs to in order to redefine and relocate itself within a new social condition that may flow and prosper. Migration is a process of flows with its shift and duration uncertain; however, what is known is that a form of loss is certain--one's residence is left behind, as well as the loss of political and social sovereignty. The gains are not guaranteed, but there is always a kind of loss (Nail 2015).

Reading Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990), a whimsical tale of the Sha of Blah's journey to find the 'sea of stories', I began to reflect on the Indian diaspora in Aotearoa New Zealand that travels through identity, memory and knowledge. As fantastical characters in the book come to life with his narration, it dawns on me that there might exist an archive that may re-establish a sense of identity in my own diasporic history. Salman Rushdie's writing often proclaims a particular type of truth about migration, censorship and isolation. He writes:

Different parts of the Ocean contain different sorts of stories, and as all the stories that had ever been told and many that were still in the process of being invented could be found here, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was, in fact, the biggest library of books, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was much more than a storeroom of yarns. It was not dead but alive. (Rushdie 1990: 72)...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Patel, Rafik. "A flowing culture: Images of early Gujarati Indian-Islamic migrants in Aotearoa New Zealand." Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration, vol. 1, no. 2, 2017, p. 251+. Accessed 14 May 2021.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A489081374