Arotahi ā-Hapori | Community Focus: Liya Lupala (The Blackhouse)

Every Saturday from 3-4pm, The Blackhouse broadcasts on Wellington Access Radio.  This radio talk show and podcast centres the African heritage and Black Diaspora experience in Aotearoa.  The Blackhouse’s creator, the Tanzanian-Aotearoan Liya Lupala, is committed to providing a space for this diverse community to share stories, social observations, music, history, news, politics and events.

Wellington-born Liya says “I grew up in an era when there weren’t many African people around.  We were kind of invisible in the New Zealand landscape.”  Inspired by other podcasts and YouTube channels which feature African heritage and Black Diaspora experiences, Liya realised that New Zealand needed something similar to capture the lives and views of this often overlooked community.  “You see stereotypes or tropes about who we are, or academic and talking heads discussing us and imposing their perceptions upon us, but the views of everyday members of our community weren’t being captured anywhere.

“When I started The Blackhouse, we were doing a fairly structured interview style of content, but we’ve since evolved more into just conversations.  The content doesn’t need to be cultural, it just needs to represent topics and interests which are important to us.  Recently, I had someone ask me at an event if we could cover the unique experiences of dating as a black person in Aotearoa and I thought, absolutely, that’s something The Blackhouse needs to explore.”

Liya has, thus far, been the driving force behind The Blackhouse – both creatively and financially – but she has big growth aspirations which she knows will require additional funding and expertise.  She recently connected with Hui E! Community Aotearoa through another podcaster at Voices of Aroha and started to put some of those plans in motion.  “I don’t know anything about funding, so I knew I needed help with some grant writing assistance.  Hui E! connected me with a volunteer grant writer who walked me through all the applications, bit by bit.”

Hui E! helped Liya get her first funding application to Wellington Community Fund over the line, as well as connecting her with Gift Collective, who can receive financial contributions on her behalf.  “I didn’t want to incorporate because my passion really is on the creative side of the process.  That connection with Gift Collective makes it possible for me to do the parts I love, and saves me a lot of paperwork.”

While she awaits the results of that first funding application, Liya is busy looking ahead to the future of The Blackhouse.  “I really want to be getting more into the outreach space; connecting young people in our community with media, perhaps as part of their existing studies.  The black community of New Zealand is not just migrants and refugees.  We have a whole generation of New Zealand-born people of African descent who don’t necessarily know where they fit in here.  My hope is that we can provide an inclusive space for all of these communities which may be very unique, but which all have something very important in common.  The Blackhouse is our virtual marae, because we don’t have that tangible space established in Aotearoa just yet.  You can come here and discuss stuff around the kitchen table, and feel seen and heard.”

She has new-found confidence since working with Hui E! and is certain that she’ll continue growing The Blackhouse, even if she has to keep trying for additional funding.  “The Hui E! programme is really awesome.  The funding process was really challenging to get my head around at first, with lots of back and forth, but I felt really supported, even on days when my chronic fatigue made it difficult to get through all the emails.  I’m not afraid now to apply for funding again when I need it.  I’ve got a much better idea of what the process is like.  I know how much I wish there had been a platform like The Blackhouse when I was growing up, and how important it is to make it available for the next generation.  I’m like a dog with a bone, really, so I know I’ll find a way.”