I AM - countering one-dimensional narratives about people of African descent in New Zealand using visual methodologies and participatory photography.

Introduction | Background | Theoretical Framework | Press Release

In the visual typography of Western media and entertainment the bodies of people of African descent have been and continue to be painted as a symbol of perversion, poverty, crime and shame. Studies reveal that others confront individuals from migrant and refugee backgrounds with ascriptions. These ascriptions are at times a result of one-dimensional media representation of the ‘other’ that result in interactions based on experiencing imagery that is heavily laden with stereotypes. 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.

Radio NZ InterviewArt matters: images offer vision of the world 

Community social media outreach

“With the emergence of digital and new technologies there are now more ways to exhibit and showcase cultural narratives. As a result of that one of the obvious choices to assisting with changing the narrative was social media that now in some sense also acts as an aspect of media due to its ability to disseminate messages. By creating an alternative to mainstream narratives and inviting members of the community to participate this has enabled the creation of stories by everyone having an input into how they are represented." - Makanaka Tuwe

Gallery exhibition images and stories

Kamal Sunker

What is home though? This is the place I grew up and I like spending time here. For me it is also where my family is. Genetically my ancestors are nomads so I feel like home is wherever. Home can change, it is everywhere. Home is an energy and not a place. Read more

Janina Asiedu

Living in a world that punishes people for who they are – when I am down I let myself feel what I am feeling, in that lies my strength. People in this generation are so scared to feel, it’s the way we have been wired. You are not strong if you are crying but I feel true strength is when you can cry and feel what you need to feel. If I feel like shit, I let myself feel like shit and go through the motions. It is just knowing your self-worthy and knowing your values and being able to pick yourself up again. Read more

Rowen Paul Alexander

I chose to be in New Zealand, I love being in New Zealand, I haven’t been shot, I haven’t been mugged, I haven’t been stabbed and I haven’t been robbed. Yes I am lucky to be in New Zealand but I paid $25,000 to be here and yes I am fortunate to be in New Zealand but I also met the criteria and have the required skillset to be here. Read more

Mahlete Tetseke  

It has been about embracing your ethnicity and the journey all started after high school. I feel like high school is this place where you just want to fit in, where you put on this façade but after high school I found myself. In the last couple of years I have come to a place where I am proud to be black and where I am proud to be Ethiopian. Those feelings of inferiority are no longer there. Read more

Wanjiku Kiare-Sanderson

The difference about the diaspora community then and now is if I tell the story of running across the street to shake someone’s hands some people will laugh. Nowadays you say hello to someone and they look down and don’t respond. You almost want to say hello I am not charging you just say hello back. Read more

Nefsie Dawit Tekeste

I go to school for five days and I kind of like it. What I like about school is free time when we get to do whatever we want. During free time I draw flowers, pictures and girls. I don’t like writing at school because it gets harder and harder and they tell us what to write. Read more

Kiden Brown

When I first moved to New Zealand I was 14-years old and I moved here with my whole family. Even till this day when I say that I am from Kenya, people are surprised that we have houses, somebody even asked me if giraffes poke their heads through the window when we are having breakfast. I just wish people would educate themselves about Africa instead of believing the images they see on TV. They just judge us instead of getting to know us. Read more

Hosting organisations and collaborators 

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Makanaka Tuwe is the Founder of Afrika on My Sleeve and a self-published author. She is currently completing her Master in International Communication focusing on expanding the Africana narrative in the media space specifically Sub-Saharan African youth in Auckland, New Zealand. Questionable Intimacy is her first self-published title written over a period of four years. As part of her self-care rituals you can find her blending 100% natural soaking salts and organic tea leaves while twerking furiously to afrobeats. Hailing from the Southern part of the African continent, Zimbabwe, she identifies as a citizen of the world and above all a womanist.


Julia Glover was born in Auckland, New Zealand into a Brazilian/Kiwi family. She works predominantly in the medium of Photography and experiments with mixed media such as video & and installation.

Julia's body of work has continuously been around themes of identity and self expression. After completing her Bachelor in Design, majoring in photography Julia travelled overseas to teach photography in upstate New York. Upon her return to her home country she continues to teach her passion of photography here in Auckland.

Artist Statement:

My art practice has always been a self exploration, whether it’s an installation looking into my female genealogy or sculptural nude self portraits. To me, art is a channel in discovering who you are as an individual and allows the artist to open the mind of the viewer. More recently I have decided to take a new approach, in stepping outside of my comfort zone I focus my camera on other individuals and cultures to capture their essence as human beings & express their stories. 


Established in 2011, Love, Cover, Protect (LCP) is an HIV prevention programme for Africans by Africans living in Aotearoa and operates as a service provided to the African community by the New Zealand Aids Foundation. 

The programme is focused on preventing the transmission of HIV and providing support for people living with HIV. In addition to working to reduce HIV prevalence, one of LCP’s objectives is to empower the community and this is achieved by facilitating youth workshops, training programmes and partnering/sponsoring community events and projects. Although the ‘I AM’ project is not directly linked to HIV and AIDS, the project’s objectives and goals are directly linked to the empowerment of the community and strengthening of community action through creative supportive environments as stipulated by the organisation’s partnership guideline (attached). One of the organisation’s objectives is to ‘raise awareness, inform, empower and support our community’. As the ‘I AM’ campaign is a holistic approach to combating systematic racism, it is in line with empowering and supporting members of the African community by:

(1) enabling members of the community to take ownership of their identity and

(2) enabling members of the community to present themselves to the wider community in their own way.