From Africa and Asia into the light
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.