A guiding star from Tamil Nadu shines in Kiwiland

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Venkat Raman
Auckland, January 16, 2022

Peniel Prabhakaran-Elliot: Deepening Maori-Tamil relations

As Peniel Prabhakaran-Elliot rendered the Powhiri in chaste Maori and Tamil at the start of the Leaders Meeting of the Aotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangams (ANTS) on Friday, January 7, 2022 in Wellington, the pride in the room went to lofty heights.

For, this young woman, with her proficiency in Maori and Tamil- first as a child of Tamil Nadu and then as the resident of New Zealand, her adopted country – not only symbolised the bond that exists between Maori and Tamils for centuries but also glorified the efforts of ANTS leadership to forge an even tighter bond. More of these elsewhere on this page.

As the Patron of ANTS, this Reporter is gratified that Peniel has been appointed to lead a Project to strengthen relationships with iwi Maori and Tamil Samudayam.

The Vision and Mission

ANTS President Raveen Annamalai said, “The vision is to inform and engage her community to learn more of the history, Tikanga Maori and Te Reo Maori. And for Maori to meet, hear, and get to know the diverse Tamil that live in Aotearoa. But ultimately this work aims for a model of bridging the gap between the indigenous and migrant communities directly.”

Leaders of the Aotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangams at their meeting held on January 8, 2022

Born into a family of five children in Chennai, Peniel was raised with a strong affinity and proficiency in Tamil and learnt her English well, attending a good school. Her penchant for travel took her to different lands, cultures, conventions, heritage and habits and strengthened her resolve to connect her own moorings to manifestations of civilisations.

A multi-disciplinary professional, she is at once an effective writer, orator, community leader, bridge builder and learner.

Her academic achievements include postgraduate degrees (Masters) in Public Policy and Leadership Communication, Graduate Certification in Social Policy and Diplomas in Theology, and Te Reo Maori.

Her work experience began during her years in Chennai with a leadership role in her local Tamil Church. She has also worked as a Leadership Trainer and facilitator while heading several community development projects.

Superintendent of Police Rakesh Naidoo with Raveen Annamalai at the dinner reception on January 7, 2022

The New Zealand Connection

Migrating to New Zealand in 2015, Peniel quickly assimilated the Maori culture and appreciated its values and traditions and related them to her Tamilian background.

“I missed home with all its cultural and social nuances and decided that I should not only deepen my connections back home but also relate them to the New Land. Working across cultural and other barriers, I am determined to ensure that no one is disconnected, discounted or discouraged from their identity, culture and language. Everyone should realise and be given the right to their unique values and we must celebrate their ethno-socio-religious-geographical diversity,” she said.

The Kelir Series

Peniel is a Co-Creator and Contributing Author to a new Tamil publication titled, ‘Kelir Books,’ that aims to reach out to all Tamil-speaking people. The publishers have scheduled release of two books at ‘Parliament in Pongal’ due to be held on February 9, 2022.

Committed to serving the ensuing generation of leaders, she is keen to promote Tamil language, ethical values and ethical leadership through children’s literature.

Background

Peniel lives in Rotorua with her husband David and has been learning Te Reo Maori and effect an even more meaningful relationship with Tamil-speaking people. She also works as a Community Engagement Advisor at McLeods Booksellers in Rotorua and is supporting the Kupu Board at the Maori Writers Festival, due to be held in June 2022.

Sir Timoti Karetu and Dr Rangi Matamua, well-known personalities of the Maori literary world, will be among the speakers.

Pictures by Sashi Harsha Photography, Wellington

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