Africans first arrived in New Zealand in large numbers in the early 1990s. It was recorded between 2001 and 2006 that there was an increase of 63% followed by a 25% increase between 2006 and 2013, raising the population of Africans in New Zealand from 33,939 to 42,306 (Nakhid, 2015). In total the African community is less than 1% of the population in New Zealand as of 5 March 2013 (Perumal, 2010) with 25% of the community born in New Zealand and 75% born overseas. The most common region of residence for the African community is the Auckland region with approximately 52% of the total African population. As the prevalent of people of African descent living in New Zealand increases due to migration and birth, it becomes imperative to create stories that relate to the reality of those individuals.
After conducting a literature review titled ‘Media Representation of People of African Descent’, in 2015, I established that there is a lack of action regarding how to counter the negative narratives presented in the media. Just as it is important to debunk the patterns of distortion and biased narratives represented by the media, it is also important to include the untold stories in the media. Evidence illustrated that mainstream media does not fully address the communication needs of ethnic groups or represent them in a balanced manner (Robie, 2009). A study conducted by Hollings’ (2007) analysing the New Zealand census data of 2006 revealed that 82% of journalists were European, 12% Māori, 12% Asian, 4.8% Pasifika and 1.8% other ethnic minorities (Noronha & Papoutsaki, 2014). While there is no literature regarding any new data of ethnic classification of journalists, one can argue that the lack of equal representation in journalism could be one of the reasons coverage of minority communities in New Zealand is one-dimensional.
In mass media, the lifestyle and reality of people of African descent has been narrowed, standardized and simplified, as a result of that and other factors, Afro-Kiwis have been met with ascriptions that contribute to a lack of sense of belonging. Although Africans make a significant contribution to the educational, social and cultural landscape of New Zealand, research has revealed that African youth are subjected to name calling and racist abuse by the police due to the stereotypes held by the justice system about African youth (Nakhid, 2015). This is an example of what is endured as a result of stereotypes that can be argued the one-dimensional narratives and representation in the media perpetuated. The justice system is just one sector of society and as those stereotypes are used to build preconceived notions, individuals of African descent’s livelihood is fraught with systematic racism and microagressions.
The findings of the literature review also highlighted that firstly there is a lack of research in the New Zealand context and secondly a lack of research regarding how to counter the negative narratives. It led to the realization that future research, methodologies and questioning needs to reflect the need to enable self-representation of people of African descent living in New Zealand. Just as important as it is to debunk the patterns of distortion and biased narratives represented by the media, it is also important to include the untold stories in the media. This resulted in the creation of the ‘I AM’ project.