DiversCity: Community Showcase Project

A series of projects that celebrate the ethnic diversity of Christchurch. DiversCity projects build connections and create opportunities for Christchurch’s ethnic communities to have an enduring presence in the city. 

DiversCity 2022

DiversCity 2022 is a Gap Filler project created together with five ethnic communities from Waitaha Canterbury: The Canterbury Zurkhāneh Club, the Christchurch Iranian Society + University of Canterbury Iranian Society, Embracing Diversity, the Pakistani Association of Canterbury, and the United Afghan Association of Canterbury. 

For this project, five curved seats, located near the Archery Lawn in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, create a stage for diverse ethnic voices from Christchurch. Each community involved decorated one of the seats with traditional patterns, colours and imagery to help tell their stories and share their cultural heritage with others in Ōtautahi. The ambition of this project is to create a space and platform for sharing and learning. This helps us form deeper bonds of connection, compassion, and build a better understanding of the many people who call Christchurch home.

Together this circular seating creates a pop-up amphitheatre for events, concerts, and cultural celebrations that everyone is welcome to attend. Each community has also created audio recordings that can be listened to through the links below. This is a space to relax, enjoy, and learn more about each other and ourselves.

Canterbury Zurkhāneh Club 

Varzesh-e pahlavāni (heroic sport) is recognised by UNESCO as the world’s oldest form of martial arts training. Originally used by knights and warriors to condition and prepare for battle, ancient Persians also believed that the development of physical and mental strength enhanced spirituality. Pahlavāni training promotes kindness and humility through the cultivation of outer strength and is still widely practised throughout Iran today.

Traditionally practised in a domed structure called the zurkhāneh, pahlavāni training combines martial arts, callisthenics, strength training and music along with tools such as the Sang (Shields), Shena (Push-up Boards), Meel (Persian Mace Clubs) and Kabbadeh (Steel Bow). 

The Canterbury Zurkhāneh Club welcomes new members! Come and check out a pahlavāni training at the DiversCity 2022 pop-up amphitheatre or visit www.facebook.com/Zurkhaneh.Canterbury/ for more information.

Embracing Diversity

Ifowo sowopo ęlęyamęya
Kukumbatia utofauti
Kugamuchira musiyano

Embracing Diversity is a non-profit organisation that helps African youth connect with their culture and strengthens a sense of identity and belonging. Embracing Diversity runs youth programmes that enhance self-esteem through education by focussing on rich and unique African traditions, building resilience to racism, and empowering community engagement. Embracing Diversity helps young people navigate what it means to be a person of proud African descent living in Aotearoa New Zealand.

For DiversCity 2022, Embracing Diversity draws attention to the role of drums across all African cultures. Drums are treasured assets in African communities; their vibrant, rhythmic sounds play a central part in important cultural traditions from birth to death.


#IAmUnique #Moję ęni ara oto #mimi ni wa kipekee #takasiyana

The United Afghan Association of Canterbury

The United Afghan Association of Canterbury is a charitable trust established to support the Afghan refugee and migrant community to build their lives in Aotearoa New Zealand. The UAAC focuses on education, recreation, and community as a means to help people from Afghanistan to express their cultural identity and deepen relationships with the people of Ōtautahi Christchurch.

For DiversCity 2022, the UAAC showcases the striking music of the dambora alongside some of the many great historical landmarks of the central highlands of Afghanistan. Listen to stories about the monumental 6th Century Buddhas of Bamiyan carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Minaret of Jam, and the Band-e Amir National Park – Afghanistan’s own “Grand Canyon”.

Pakistani Association of Canterbury (PACNZ)

پاکستانی ایسوسی ایشن کنٹربری نیوزی لینڈ

Canterbury is home to a small, vibrant community of people with Pakistani origins. Members of this community come from diverse backgrounds; some have been living in the region for decades and have brought up their next generations here. The size of the Pakistani community in Canterbury keeps growing as a result of the continual addition of new entrants (professionals and students).

PACNZ is a representative body of the local Pakistani community that organises recreational activities and social gatherings to promote connection and understanding among our community members. These events help preserve and promote the culture, values and heritage of the Pakistani community. If you would like to know more about Pakistan, or you are a person of Pakistani descent living in or intending to move to Christchurch or the Canterbury region, we would love to hear from you.

For DiversCity 2022, PACNZ showcases the beauty of Pakistan. The audio recordings made by PACNZ community members describe the dynamic natural environment, rich architectural history, and ancient civilisations of Pakistan.


Christchurch Iranian Society

The Christchurch Iranian Society promotes the vitality of Iranian culture in New Zealand, especially through traditional music, sports, arts and entertainment. The Society works as an effective body by providing opportunities to develop kinship among the wider community, by preserving cultural history and by encouraging the recognition of cultural values through cultural events.

For DiversCity 2022 the Christchurch Iranian Society celebrates the Persian New Year, ‘Nowruz’, with all of Ōtautahi. In harmony with the rebirth of nature, Nowruz always begins on the first day of spring. In the Southern Hemisphere however, Nowruz is celebrated as we transition into Autumn. 

A few weeks before the New Year, Iranians prepare for Nowruz celebrations with an extensive, deep clean of their homes. They refresh their wardrobes and germinate seeds as a sign of renewal. Central to Nowruz is Haft-Seen where families create beautiful table arrangements that embody hopes for renewal, prosperity, love, health, and warmth. Ceremonies surrounding Nowruz centre on community, family, and deep respect for tradition.


Simurgh Music School www.simurgh.nz

Who, what, where, when

Date: October 2021 – July 2022

Location:  Archery Lawn, Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Client/Funder: Christchurch City Council, Ministry for Ethnic Communities Te Tari Mātāwaka

Key people: The Canterbury Zurkhāneh Club, the Christchurch Iranian Society + University of Canterbury Iranian Society, Embracing Diversity, the Pakistani Association of Canterbury, the United Afghan Association of Canterbury

Values: Experimentation, Collaboration

Support/Sponsors:  Resene Paint

Celebrating our diversity

DiversCity 2016 – 2019 was a series of several community-led projects which aimed to showcase the cultural diversity of Christchurch. Korean, Fijian-Indian, Chinese and Nigerian communities were been involved to realise collaborative projects which showcased aspects of their culture for the wider public.

For Gap Filler, this project was about celebrating our city’s diversity and bringing greater visibility to cultural communities. Cultural events and festivals are common in Christchurch (like the Chinese Lantern Festival and Diwali) but they are ephemeral and don’t foster particularly deep connections. DiversCity hoped to give some of our ethnic communities greater visibility in the city by being of a longer duration and contributing something of their culture to the cityscape.

We learned a lot about other cultures and how to work successfully with members of these communities. The ways in which we communicate, relate and even our expectations and priorities are all rather culturally specific and it was great to be challenged on that a bit.

#1 K-Pop (Korea)

November 2016

The first project that Gap Filler supported was heats for K-Pop – a Korean song and dance performance competition – held  at the Dance-O-Mat on November 5, 2016. The aim was to make the event more accessible and visible to the greater Christchurch public, encouraging more people to enter and watch. Lots and lots of people busted out their best moves in this fun, lively event full of great tunes and choice dance moves. 
“The Korean community dispersed after the earthquakes, we thought this was a great initiative to bring the community back together. And it’s fun!” says Chai Kim, the event organiser.

Thank you to Chai Kim and the whole Korean Association for their support of this phase.

#2 Ping Pong (China) 

December 2016 – April 2017

For this project worked with the Chinese Cultural Association and installed three concrete table tennis tables with bats and balls at the western end of Cashel Mall. The tables saw a great deal of use and they helped enliven this part of the city.

Feedback via Facebook included comments such as: “It was lovely to see two of your table tennis tables in use when I walked past tonight. They brought life to an area that can feel a bit desolate after dark” and “Every time I go past they are being used and people are waiting for a game.” 

One of the aims of the project was also to test new ways to use public space. Carolyn Ingles, Head of Urban Design, Urban Regeneration and Heritage at Christchurch City Council was excited to see the high use of the ping pong tables. She says, “It’s great to have seen so many people using the tables — kids during the holidays, construction workers during lunch breaks and tourists discovering one more thing that makes Christchurch so special. The tables have proven to be an excellent way to test a temporary intervention in a public space, and to see just how popular and meaningful it can be.”

#3 Ayoayo (Nigeria)

March 2017 – November 2017

Working with the Nigerian Canterbury Association we created a mancala board. Known as an Ayoayo in Nigeria, mancala is a game that involves moving pieces or seeds from ‘dishes’ usually carved into a piece of wood.

Local woodworker, Jim Goodwin made use of a fallen black poplar from Hagley Park to create the mancala which was donated to the project by Tree Tech. 

Dennis Agelebe, President of the Nigerian Canterbury Association said of the project: “The Gap Filler organisation is doing wonderful work, we’re really pleased to be involved creating this AyoAyo game.”

Ayoayo was situated on the West side of the Otakaro/Avon River, between Worcester and Hereford Streets from November 2017 until March 2018. After the project finished the game was given to Ilam Primary School.

#4 Lali Drum (Fijian Indian) 

January 2018 – Winter 2018

This time we worked with the Fijian Indian community to create a Lali drum. The Lali drum is an important aspect of traditional Fijian culture. Previously used during wartime, today they are used for community purposes such as to call a meeting together and celebrate. This public installation was in collaboration with the Canterbury Fiji Community and the Christchurch Fiji Association (CFCESSA). 

The drum was located along the river near the Town Hall, a prominent part of the city on the new river walkway for passers by to view and have a go at playing. 

Who, what, where, when

Date: December 2016 – April 2018

Locations:  Various in the city, Oxford Terrace, Gloucester Street

Client/Funder: Christchurch City Council

Key people: Chai Kim, Robin Wang, Jim Goodwin, Dennis Agelebe

Values: Experimentation, Collaboration

Support/Sponsors:  Korean Association, Chinese Cultural Association & Jane, Helen, Tracey & Cory from PSP, C Lund & Son, Cosmic, The Warehouse, Nigerian Canterbury Association, Christchurch Fiji Association