• About

    A photo series to capture and tell the backstory of migrants as they make
    Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, their new home.

    "Coming to New Zealand truly unsettled me.

     

    In retrospect I thought, very naïvely, having left India as a student and lived in the UK for some time already, I would be ok. I would arrive in Auckland, make friends, get to know my way about the city, and soon figure out where my favourite spots were. Get on with life. Easy.

     

    Except it wasn’t. I realised that this was what being ‘the other’ felt like, complete with having to answer the question, “So, where are you from?”

     

    Homesickness startled me, but where was home? Mumbai didn’t quite feel like home anymore. London had felt like a sparkling first date. In comparison, Auckland felt like a couple's counselling session. I questioned everything, well, almost everything.

     

    Feeling like a local in at least some measure has taken time, patience and work. A couple of years back I read that there were over 300 different ethnicities in Auckland alone. 300 is just a number though and does no justice to the experience of being at home in New Zealand and everything it involves.

     

    I was curious to know: What brings people to New Zealand and what makes us stay? Who do we live with and how do we live together. While leading our individual lives, what version of the world are we creating with our stories collectively?"

     

    Shriya Bhagwat-Chitale

    Project Creator

  • Participate

    Backstory has the intention of connection and inclusion. If we're here now, staying together involves all of us. So, Backstory is about sharing and understanding where we all come from. Through hearing diverse perspectives and rich histories we appreciate our own uniqueness and the things that we may have in common.

     

    How Backstory works

     

    There are three aspects to Backstory.

    1. We tell people's stories of moving to Auckland, New Zealand and of their experience living in New Zealand's biggest city.
       
    2. We take beautiful photos of people.
       
    3. We feature an object they have brought with them to Auckland and describe its meaning.


    If you'd like to add your story, please fill out the form with your full name, email address and mobile number.

     

    Please also include:

    • your ethnicity
    • country of origin
    • length of time in New Zealand and Auckland
    • an object you would like to be photographed with and 20 words about its meaning to you. 

    Don't be afraid to reach out. You + we = awesome.

     

    "Sometimes, the things that keep us awake at night are also the things that keep us alive."

  • Meet the People

    They're from all over the world!

    May 19, 2017
    My name is Roberto Nascimento. I work in the film industry. I’ve always wanted to. I’m from Brazil. When I came here I had no idea how to do that or how to start and it took me a few years to get there. I’m still getting there. But at least I am doing what I want to do now. I have lived away...
    May 19, 2017
    I’m Melino Maka. I am originally from Tonga and I’ve lived in New Zealand for just over 40 years. Back in the Pacific, people looked at New Zealand as the land of milk and honey. And there were plenty of opportunities, either for education or jobs. I was 19 years old when I came here for school...
    May 14, 2017
    My name is Hanna Wiskari and I am from Sweden. I am a musician and a music tutor. I moved to New Zealand because I met and married a kiwi. He was an art student and we met at a student hostel. My object is my musical instrument, my saxophone, because that is an important part of who I am. ...
    May 10, 2017
    I’m Archana Shreshta. I was born and raised in Nepal and I’ve lived in New Zealand for the last 18 years. I remember most of the things about my childhood. When we first came here in 1998 I missed everything about Nepal. My father moved to New Zealand because he got a job here and we joined him...
    May 10, 2017
    I am Camille Nakhid and I’m from Trinidad. I came to New Zealand in 1988. My partner comes from Samoa and when we got together we thought, “Well, where will we live?” I saw the debate on the nuclear issue between David Lange and Jerry Falwell and thought that this would be a pretty interesting...
    May 10, 2017
    I’m Carol Chan and I’m from Hong Kong. I left home when I was about 18 to study in Melbourne at University. After 7 years I went back to Hong Kong to work for two years. Then I came to New Zealand with my boyfriend. We both hated Hong Kong, well, maybe not hated, but disliked living there....
    April 29, 2017
    My name is Makanaka Tuwe and I moved to New Zealand from Zimbabwe 13 years ago when I was 10 years old. On the inside, it feels like you don't know where you're from. If I go back to Zimbabwe I'm too Westernised to be a Zimbabwean, a ‘full-blown Zimbabwean woman’, whatever that means. And over...
    April 29, 2017
    My name is Ashleigh Ali and I came to New Zealand from Kurdistan as a refugee. I am 27 years old and I am doing a PhD at AUT University in Auckland. In the mid 80’s, my parents fled Kurdistan because of the violence – the bombings, the gas and genocide, and the war. They travelled to Iran first...
    April 29, 2017
    I’m Anabel Fernandez and I am from Cuba. I think that New Zealand found me, instead of me finding New Zealand. I was doing my PhD program in Cuba and wasn’t actually looking to leave. While I was studying a friend suggested that it might be interesting to look at other universities doing...
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  • The Backstory Team

    The people behind the people

    Shriya Bhagwat-Chitale

    Project creator

    Shriya left India when she was 23 to study in the UK. She graduated in 2006 from the University of Westminster with a Masters in Media Management. She met her husband-to-be, Harshal, while living and working in the UK, where they dated and married a couple of years later.

     

    An economist, Harshal was offered an opportunity to do some research in Auckland. He asked Shriya if she’d like to go with him and take the scenic route. She said yes.

     

    Read more »

    Milon Tesiram

    Photographer

    Milon was born and raised in Auckland, with parents who had emigrated to New Zealand. His mother had come from Montreal, Canada, and his Father is from Nausori, Fiji, with Indian heritage.

     

    Being a kiwi with diverse roots, Milon is inherently curious about other people and where they come from. Backstory was the ideal project to feed this curiosity.

     

    Read more »

    Philip Patston

    Website and social media

    Philip met Shriya while working at the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and, being a bit of a geek in his spare time, offered to help out with Backstory's website and social media. In his other life, Philip has over 25 years professional experience in counselling, social work, human rights promotion, creative and social entrepreneurship, as well as leadership. He also had a fifteen-year career as a professional, award-winning comedian (1997-2012).

     

    Philip's purpose is to deepen awareness of diversity in creative, fun, non-threatening ways, so he was instantly drawn to Shriya's project.

     

    Read more »

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    Supported by Albert-Eden Local Board

  • Shriya Bhagwat-Chitale

    Project creator

    Shriya left India when she was 23 to study in the UK. She graduated in 2006 from the University of Westminster with a Masters in Media Management. She met her husband-to-be, Harshal, while living and working in the UK, where they dated and married a couple of years later.

     

    An economist, Harshal was offered an opportunity to do some research in Auckland. He asked Shriya if she’d like to go with him and take the scenic route. She said yes.

     

    Unsettled by her arrival in Auckland, feeling like a local took time, patience and work. In 2014 Shriya read that there were over 300 different ethnicities in Auckland alone. It occurred to her that 300 is just a number and does no justice to the experience of being at home in New Zealand’s largest city and everything it involves.
     
    She was curious to know: What brings people to New Zealand and what makes us stay? Who do we live with and how do we live together? While leading our individual lives, what version of the world are we creating with our stories collectively?"

     

    This interest inspired her to conceive the Backstory project. It is her hope that, through hearing other people’s stories and experiences, Backstory will allow people to feel connected to each other and have a sense of belonging to Auckland and New Zealand.

     

    Shriya’s career started with a brief stint as a journalist in Mumbai covering the crime beat. She liked to write and was encouraged by her parents. Over time, opportunities to explore different aspects and sectors of media have given her a diverse range of skills in publishing, media, PR and advertising.

     

    She is a Mumbai girl at heart where she was born and spent her childhood. The first born, she grew up with her younger brother, her aai (mother) and baba (father). Her sister-in-law and brother now live in Italy and her parents remain in Mumbai in their ancestral home. Her passions are day-dreaming and long walks in parks. She also likes to cook, is introverted, generally happy, ambitious, curious and also sometimes impatient..

  • Milon Tesiram

    Photographer

    Milon was born and raised in Auckland, with parents who had emigrated to New Zealand. His mother had come from Montreal, Canada, and his Father is from Nausori, Fiji, with Indian heritage.

     

    Being a kiwi with diverse roots, Milon is inherently curious about other people and where they come from. Backstory was the ideal project to feed this curiosity.

     

    By day, Milon works as the Production Director at Chillbox, a film and video production company he and a few friends co-founded while studying at University. While most of his work is video-based, photography serves as a natural complement - posing the challenge of distilling a story in a single image.

     

    Milon's aspiration is to produce and direct feature films with his colleagues at Chillbox. With free time, he hopes to help with community initiatives. Recent projects include I, Too, Am Auckland, a series of videos exploring Maori and Pasifika students' experiences of racism at university.

     

    As part of Backstory, Milon’s aim is to photograph people in settings that have some kind of special significance to them. The project allows him to meet and learn about people he wouldn't otherwise know - something he values. He hopes that the project will encourage more ‘neighbourliness’ in Auckland.

     

    Milon holds an LLB from The University of Auckland, and feels lucky to make a living working on videos and films.

  • Philip Patston

    Website and social media

    Philip met Shriya while working at the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and, being a bit of a geek in his spare time, offered to help out with Backstory's website and social media. In his other live, Philip has over 25 years professional experience in counselling, social work, human rights promotion, creative and social entrepreneurship, as well as leadership. He also had a fifteen-year career as a professional, award-winning comedian (1997-2012).

     

    Managing Director of Diversity New Zealand, Philip's purpose is to deepen awareness of diversity in creative, fun, non-threatening ways, so was instantly drawn to Shriya's project. In October 2015, Philip was named one of the Top 10 diversity consultants in the inaugural Global Diversity List, the first ever assessment of the world’s leading authorities on diversity. He was put on the list again in 2016.

     

    In July 2014, he was awarded the Inaugural Arts Access Accolade, which recognises the lifetime achievements of an individual who has played a significant role in working with Arts Access Aotearoa to achieve its vision of a society where all people in New Zealand can participate in the arts.


    Philip is also a Leadership New Zealand Fellow (2012) and a New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellow (2007-2009). He spoke at TEDxAuckland in July 2012 about his unique approach to diversity.

     

    Philip's diverse professional career combines with his somewhat paradoxical life experience as a gay, caucasian man with unique function (disability).

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