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I Love Refugees

Published 20 October 2017 - By Rufus Mufasa

I was recently labelled anti-military and anti-establishment because I posted a video of a Syrian child, so covered in rubble dust that they could have passed for a slab of concrete, dust inches thick, camouflaging extensive injuries, caused by bombs of war. Whose bombs of war I’m unsure of, there are several possibilities, but no child should look such a state, no human should be in that position. If being a refugee sympathiser is a political opinion, then bombs of war must be too, right? Sympathising helps mankind make changes, or so you’d think! I’d rather sympathise with refugees than drop bombs on countries. I’d rather try to heal the hurt than turn communities into dust and dirt.

Credit: Joe Roberts
Credit: Joe Roberts

The post, neither intended as an attack on the military, or the establishment, but my right to share and raise awareness, vanished from cyber space. My efforts as futile as the child’s future. We are indeed living in scary times. Wake up!

We have become extremely desensitised to refuges. We claim that there is no crisis. We say that we are not bombing Syria. We don’t want to hear about Iraq. If you are not on team “We”, great!

In May, I was part of #crowdlitbus tour, with 7 other writers. I flew from Bristol to Berlin, and toured Germany, then to Poland.  One night at Wiesenberg, we were performing at Gasthof Moritz, a beautiful courtyard literary venue. The lemonade was delicious and reminded me of the lemonade from the Pop Van that I had at my Uncle John and Auntie Phyllis’ when I was a child, and I got drunk on nostalgia. It was here that I met the world’s youngest Mayor, in comparison to the stereotypical ideas of Mayors I have, which to be fair, are usually greying. Novelist, Alen Mesškovic read an extract from one of his books, the story of a Bosnian boy’s life in a refugee camp. The story had me in tears, it was so beautiful but so sad. In a society where we are sold desensitised accounts of refugees, Alen’s story, based on his own experiences really gave me something to share with others when I returned. The talk within the group later turned to Maria Siakalli’s (a Cypriot poet) parents’ story about having to flee war and leave everything they owned. It explores how that impacted on her, her work as a poet, the political turmoil of her country, how she has learnt several languages in order to tackle the conflicts, unite a divided country and challenge the imposed segregations.

refugees-blog-finnish-peopleIn August I was invited to Finland, to headline an event at the Helsinki Literature Festival, and also at Literature events in Turku. I was at an event called Runoviikko Slam, at Bar Öössä. The venue was packed. Poetry is thriving there. I gave one of my best performances ever. I watched lots of performances from refugees and asylum seekers, in Finnish, English and their mother tongues and I was totally blown away at the capacity that poetry has to create changes, educate one another and heal trauma. Their stories were sensationally poetic, heart breaking, heart-warming, honest and important.  I spoke to many of the performers at the end of the event; many shared their stories with me. The creative writing programmes in Turku, especially devised for refugees and asylum seekers, and the abundance of opportunities the schemes offered, including language skills, workshops, masterclasses, performances, mentors, highlights a creative community that values their insight and wants to nurture new beginnings. A magical thing happens… One of the poets was handed a note from an audience members- “I’m sorry on behalf of the Finnish people for the way we treat persons who come here from dangerous countries. I’m sorry for the Finnish politics of today…” and on that small piece of paper, such big gestures, which can cause big change and heal so much hurt. It is important for us all to remember that our governments, whatever county we are from, are not accurate representations of the people. It is not the people that are bulldozing communities, culture and identity. In this hour the people have power. Poetry has power.

So, just like a scrap piece of paper, and as futile as any help I can offer to make big changes feel, just feeding back this information and promoting the power of poetry is a start. Bagging up clothes, bedding, toys, towels, pots and pans and getting it to refugee projects is a start. Putting on events, offering your services, is a start.

regugees-blog-daisy-green-3
Credit: Daisy Green

I have some dear friends, Efa Supertramp and the Afiach crew, and I feel so proud and privileged to know such special people, with such glowing energies, who are passionately proactive, making big changes and big differences. Efa, Afiach and A-Grrrlz recently organised a refugee benefit gig in Cardiff, to support Dunkirk’s Women’s Centre. It was beautiful to see our community and beyond come together, through the arts, to raise awareness and funds, to educate and enjoy. And boy was there a line up…

Shroukie, @DancingQueer, one of the finest belly dancers with a side of politics… Shroukie came to Cardiff as a teenager, fleeing Egypt’s horrendous attitudes towards homosexuality. Dancing Queer encompasses an art form of heritage and a statement that raises crucial awareness of the suppression and prejudice in their motherland. Shroukie amazes me every time and Wales wants to keep Dancing Queer’s exquisiteness forever!

The beautiful Eric Ngalle Charles, poet, writer and so very much more, blessed us with a performance. Eric arrived in Cardiff in 1999 after fleeing persecution in Cameroon, and has made Wales his home. He is doing exceptional things for Welsh literature, combining his African heritage and identity, and is a positive voice for refugees. Wales also wants to keep him forever!

I was honoured to be invited to perform at the event, offering performance poetry, music, and an improvised, freestyle element, where I threw Eric into the deep end with some drumming – we both totally loved it and hope to jam together soon.

refugee-blog-credit-daisy-greenI started my set with a story… (there was this lady at my school, Mrs Jones, who always told a story at Monday morning’s assembly, usually about her cats, with a metaphor for the lessons of life… well, I think at some point I turned in to her…) anyway…

My daughter teaches me daily to look at the world with fresh eyes, beautiful eyes that see so much loveliness, and wonder, nature, magic, colour. She demonstrates such an innate gratitude that thanks and greets all the flowers and plants, all the birds, the sun, the rain… and I often question “How and when do we lose all THIS?” THIS takes an eternity to relearn and master… who kills it?

So much of my recent work and poetry is inspired by her insight, effortless spirituality and connection to the world… How she loved her pink spotty wellies before she could even walk in them…How she puts on her new glittery wellies just to dance and stomp about…  How she insists on wearing her favourite sparkly shoes to bed… How she tells her toys “Don’t worry Mami’ll fix it” with such conviction – I pray so deeply that she’ll never know the world without me, and be such a warrior that she’ll have the ability to create the world she wants…refugees-blog-hogan-fach

I think about refugee children, the child in the video, the trauma they witnessed, the situations they are escaping, the paper boats their parents are forced to put them in… and what if I saw the world through their eyes? Would it be too painful too process? And as I nest furiously, so furiously that it feels cruel, to constantly clean and sort and sort and clean my home, in preparation for the arrival of our new baby, I am stopped in my tracks by the realisation, of the mothers with no homes, the pregnant women with no space to nest furiously, to exercise the innate drive, to prepare for the safe arrival of their babies, and I just sob. Sob for them, humanity and mother earth. Then the nesting takes over again and I bag up clothes for mothers, clothes for fathers, clothes for children, clothes for babies, and books and toys and toiletries, and everything I can spare, everything I don’t really need, eradicating greed and sentimentality. My partner promptly takes the bags with him to work, and passes them on to a colleague who is supporting a refugee project. What she feeds back is exquisite…

A little girl, not much younger than my daughter, found the pink spotty wellies in the bags of donations, put them on right away, and everyone watched her, teary eyed, at the magic, as she danced in delight for an hour, smiling, singing, squealing…

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Credit: Daisy Green

I suppose there are several morals here. It is not my place to force one on you, but the capacity our children have to see joy and beauty in the world, despite circumstance or trauma is majestically outstanding. I urge you to see the world through their eyes. They are far wiser than us. Nurture our children. They are all our children. Nurture our world, without borders. Sympathy is better than hate. Build bigger tables not bigger walls. Dance in your wellies and declutter.

 

 

Poems:

UNTITLED

Don’t be afraid to step in the mud, climb over rocks and look for crystals in our landscapes.

Don’t be afraid to take people on – the authorities, the professors, the police.

Don’t be afraid to declare that you are a witch, that your grandmother was, and that your daughter will be the wisest one of all.

Don’t be afraid to make friends with yourself and help save the world. It’s not working as we know it.

Don’t think that your children will slow you down, but be mindful that you are speeding up their endings.

 

Beirniadu

“Mond sebon d o”

“Ond mae sebonau arall”

 

Your breast has universal knowledge, the coding of creation, the powers that

Commercialism

Capitalism

Institutionalism

would rather you didn’t pass on, and instead

fix you up on powders imported from China on train tracks especially built for this new Silk Road,

foundations and false nations built on un-honourable harvests

where reciprocity is as absent as morals and our connection is as fake as our on line lives

that advertise everything they want you to buy

to fill voids that they deliberately created,

white washing sacred lands like there is no consequence, as if our trees don’t breath

and our animals don’t feel and your children won’t bleed

to death when filled with bullets or shards of glass or toxic gas

and the inch thick rubble dust that saturates their skin hides

every wound, making it so easy for you to look

and still say

“We are not bombing Syria”

“There is no crisis”

“Why are the campsites filled with grown men?”

 

Because the weak ones didn’t make it.

 

Oh Maria

There’s a royal rumble in this artificial jungle

where serene seems as lost as my soul

and clinical high gloss pretentious pillars bully my beliefs

and the only bit of bling is as battered as the bread.

 

And I don’t want to share your knife or your table

and don’t dare pardon my protests,

I can bless myself

once I ride out the emotions…

 

What kind of God wants me to rest on an unforgiving bed,

to lay my head on your false sense of security?

To heave getting clean, for the pang in the air to linnngerrr with the darkness and the light,

with unanswered questions and furious flashbacks.

 

For my lock to be broken and despite all the nostalgia

my Nanna

is nowhere in sight!

I can’t even reach her in my dreams…

 

But my hounds are there, now the size of wild stallions

and I’m struggling to hold them back.

How many more tears do I need to shed, how many crosses must I bear

to stop the sickness, to set me free.

 

 

Molly Mufasa

My daughter is my Biggest teacher,

Biggest Blessing, and spiritual master…

My daughter wraps her arms around me like she has all the answers…

I see the world through new eyes, and for this I must thank her…

 

My daughter talks to all the flowers and all the insects like she knows them

and knows something I don’t.

She finds paths I can’t quite see

and I defy space and reality,

lose logistics squeezing through

after her,

stepping into other worlds

where crows are the same size as children

and trees house entire communities,

ten generations of forest fairies

and all the sacred secrets of the universe…

 

My daughter stops to smell everything!

The leaves, the breeze, my ancestors’ memories,

with an insight and understanding that pre dates me.

My daughter laughs hysterically in her dreams

like she’s visiting her home land and

wakes, kissing me, “Good morning Mami”,

puts on sunglasses and dances to invisible beats…

 

My daughter is my Biggest teacher,

Biggest Blessing, and spiritual master…

My daughter wraps her arms around me like she has all the answers…

I see the world through new eyes, and for this I must thank her…

 

 

Eric Ngalle Charles

He was a stranger in these lands

but knew the landscapes better than us.

His mother made the desserts with her breath so he had a deeper understanding of our seasons.

He took strength from the fire and learnt

to swim faster than the waves,

his head in the clouds but became a master of the page and poetry

will follow him all the days of his life and on to the heavens.

 

The elders did not waste a word

and gifted him with wisdom and wonder

talent and thunder

strong connections to grandmother

who is with him in every beat of his drum

and shines right through his eyes

and his chest could hold the entire world

his arms could keep the universe

on its axis.

 

Warmth so alluring,

scent so divinely grounding

with a smile that picks you right up

like the only medicine you would ever need

and a reminder that mother Africa loves us dearly

despite our ignorance

despite our rejection and zero respect for the hub of humanity,

the original HQ.

ArtWorks Fellowship