From Africa and Asia into the light

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - By JIM CHIPP

Be­yond The Dark Jour­ney is a col­lec­tion of po­ems and short sto­ries drawn from the harsh life ex­pe­ri­ences of refugees from the Su­dan, Ethiopia, Burma and Afghanistan.

The book is pub­lished by the Welling­ton Refugees as Sur­vivors Trust and is be­ing launched this week.

Project co-or­di­na­tor Samson Sa­hele said he had ap­proached var­i­ous refugee fo­rums and lead­ers, look­ing for young peo­ple with the po­ten­tial to write creatively about their ex­pe­ri­ences.

‘‘It’s all short sto­ries and po­ems based on their ex­pe­ri­ence and re­flect­ing their jour­ney as refugees.

‘‘We are new­com­ers to this coun­try and we have many chal­lenges, and those chal­lenges bring many bar­ri­ers,’’ he said.

‘‘We want to ed­u­cate main­stream so­ci­ety by telling the sto­ries to cre­ate aware­ness, cre­ate di­a­logue and get to know each other.’’

The writ­ers cho­sen were Makuie Aken, Sonita Aziz, Ab­dalla Gabriel, Fahim Az­izi, Mar­garet Lakot Pom­peo, So­nia Az­izi, An­gela Aye and Ju­lia Tha.

They at­tended work­shops for 20 weeks, and Dame Fiona Kid­man and In­grid Hor­rocks turned out to lend their help. The process of se­lec­tion, work­shops pro­duc­ing the work, edit­ing, type­set­ting, de­sign and print­ing took eight months.

Though the writ­ers all had shared ex­pe­ri­ences as refugees, they came from dif­fer­ent parts of Africa and Asia.

‘‘It was amaz­ing. They com­mu­ni­cated very well, re­spect­ing each other, re­spect­ing each other’s dif­fer­ences, hav­ing a good time and eat­ing a lot of pizza,’’ Mr Sa­hele said.

Ab­dalla Gabriel, who came from the Su­dan, wrote the book’s open­ing poem, I am.

‘‘It was very hard. There was fight­ing go­ing on there,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s why we came to New Zealand – seek­ing se­cu­rity. I was born in the mid­dle of a war.’’ He ar­rived in New Zealand in 2003. ‘‘ When I first lived here I lived in Wal­lace Apart­ments. It was very hard. There were not many Su­danese. I could speak a lit­tle English, but it was hard. It was only me and my brother’s wife and my nephew. We did not know how to walk the streets, even. We did not know where to go.’’

He said he was able to ex­press him­self bet­ter in writ­ten English than orally.

‘‘It has been a long jour­ney, but when you have some ex­pe­ri­ence and you put it into writ­ing, it frees you. You be­come a free per­son.’’

Be­yond the Dark Jour­ney is avail­able from the Welling­ton Refugees as Sur­vivors of­fice in Webb St and will be avail­able from some book­shops. Price: $25. New­com­ers: Writer Ab­dalla Gabriel with Refugees as Sur­vivors book project co-or­di­na­tor Samson Sa­hele.

Some­thing dif­fer­ent: Whi­tireia de­sign stu­dents Jes­sica Winch­combe, left, and Becky Bliss have won in­vi­ta­tions to ex­hibit at two of the top gal­leries in New Zealand.

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