Whether we stay at home or travel the world, listen to music or read a book, we actively engage in the culture that surrounds us. That explains why culture is an integral part of how we experience life.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people." And therefore, for us Indians, wherever we live, we take a part of India along with us. And the various cultural associations present here in New Zealand help keep our Indian culture and traditions alive in our adopted country.

In this eighth part of our series on the Indian cultural associations based in NZ, we look at New Zealand Kannada Koota (NZKK, popularly known as “Koota”), which caters to NZ's Kiwi-Kannada community.

The association’s history dates to the year 1994. Giving the history of Koota, Vishu Lokapal, President of NZKK, says, “During 1994, late Prof Vamana Murthy engaged with Dr Lingappa Kalburgi and started collecting contact details of Kannadigas from the telephone directory and started contacting the families and built a database. About 25 families gathered in Cornwall Park at One Tree Hill for the first time. This led to the establishment of NZKK.”

 

The association has about 150 Kannada families actively involved with NZKK activities. The Koota aims to promote, preserve and maintain the cultural and linguistic heritage of the state while enriching the diverse cultural mosaic of NZ with the best of Indian traditions. It also helps new immigrants from Karnataka settle in NZ and liaises with similar communities and societies in NZ and India.

One of the main activities of NZKK is the Kannada Language School at NZKK Room, Fickling Convention Centre at 546 Mt Albert Road, Three Kings, Auckland. "To help the younger generation get familiar and fluent with their mother tongue, we have weekly Kannada School where we teach the students to read, write and speak in Kannada (which is the third oldest language of India). The children are also taught and encouraged to participate in dance, music, and creative arts,” explains Lokapal.

Notably, NZKK is the first among Indian associations to open a well-equipped library at Fickling Convention Centre, with over 5000 Kannada Books and 500 children's books and comics, apart from a video cassette, VCD and DVD library. Popular Kannada and English monthly magazines are also subscribed to and made available for members. “Our library is one of the most valuable assets of NZKK in assisting the community in reading and understanding Indian heritage. Library service is provided throughout the week based on members' needs and their families,” says Lokapal.

NZKK also organises regular seminars, workshops, and training by professionals in diverse fields to benefit its members and their families. It also has Manthana - a forum where senior members of NZKK and the community come together to meet at the NZKK's library premises.

NZKK puts together various cultural events throughout the year where its members find an excellent platform to exhibit and nurture the artistic talents of their young ones and their own.

NZKK also celebrates its annual Sports Day, wherein members participate in various sports competitions such as Badminton, Table Tennis, Carrom and Chess. “Being one of the founder members of the 20-year-old Migrants Community "Spirit of Cricket" Tournament played at Auckland domain in summer, NZKK's team participates in the inter-association cricket tournament along with ten other Indian association teams,” reveals Lokapal, who believes cultural organisations have a vital role in keeping the younger generation in touch with their roots.

There is a lot in store for NZKK in the coming year. The list of upcoming events for them includes participation in Festivals of South India (23 May), sports day (23 and 30 July), Ganesha festival ( 24 Sept) as well as Kannada Rajyotsava (26 Nov).

 

Talking about the plans for NZKK, Lokapal says, “We plan to organise regular forums as a meet and greet exercise for new students and members to meet with a current member where they can seek guidance and assistance for adopting the Kiwi way of life. Some indoor sports equipment is already provided for recreational purposes to the senior citizens, and more equipment such as Table Tennis and Darts are being planned for the benefit of the youth and like-minded members.”

 

A student forum is also in the pipeline, which will focus on assisting new international students from Karnataka and neighbouring states to settle in NZ. “Student representatives from NZKK who are either students or are experienced in the NZ education system will interact with new aspirants. When possible, they will pick up students from the airport, assist them with temporary accommodation, and even provide a platform for one-on-one interaction with the community once they are in NZ,” signs off Lokapal.