Otago international PhD graduate Amir Amini's fascination for different viewpoints and love of sharing stories has grown into a 10-part podcast series, When an Irani Meets a Māori.
Supported by the Canterbury Kia Ora Academy, with funding from the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs, the series was released on PlainsFM at the end of last year.
“This is a conversation initiated by an inquisitive immigrant who also has a rich but underrated history, a Persian,” says Amir, who first came to Aotearoa from Iran in September 2017, to start his PhD in Food Science at Otago.
The focus of Amir's research was to develop a functional food product which would help people avoid gastrointestinal diseases, colorectal cancer in particular. He graduated in 2021, gaining attention for his thesis topic of turning green bananas into a flour that can be added to bread.
“When I came to New Zealand, I was living in a residential college providing accommodation for almost 32 different nationalities. Interacting with real people and hearing their stories about different aspects of their culture has always fascinated me,” says Amir.
“My curiosity kept growing and I wanted to know more about New Zealand and its people. I wanted to share this with people who are coming to Aotearoa as refugees, students, immigrants, or even its residents.
“It is important, and also fun, to get to know a culture by speaking directly to its people rather than having a viewpoint set only by external media. I felt responsible to make a step towards it, no matter how small it would be.”
The podcast is based around conversations, music and storytelling, between Amir and Araiteuru Marae manager Tania Williams. Each episode focusses on a different topic, including Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Whānau, Matariki and Tangi.
“It aims to trigger your curiosity about the culture, language, beliefs, history and stories of New Zealand originals, the Māori people.”
Since leaving Otago, Amir has worked as a chef, New Zealand Red Cross settlement case worker, podcast creator and a photographer. He has also been one of the presenters for Radio Toranj, which last year became the first Farsi-language programme to be selected as a finalist in the New Zealand Radio Awards Best Access Radio Programme category.
Amir is keen to continue with another series of the podcast, possibly extending to other nationalities and cultures.
“I wish this could reach as many people as possible, to not only show how similar Māori culture can be to their own culture, but also make people approach others to get to know them directly and not be afraid to ask or be curious.”
Kōrero by Margie Clark, Communications Adviser Development and Alumni Office