Tuesday, April 30, 2013

ABC photo!

Here we are, photographed by Larissa Romensky from ABC Open, on Anzac Day public holiday, in Army lane, Horsham. We have Noreen (far left), mother of Abraham and Hozaira with us. Also Canan, mother of Buket and Yaren. And Tina, Madhu and myself also writing and colouring in the wall. ABC Western Victoria has used this photo for their timeline photo on their Facebook page, that's very good publicity for the WOW group! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

WOW Work in Progress, Army Lane

 It rained!!

 So we met up again at Cafe Thipatiy, Army lane, Horsham. It was Tuesday the 23rd April, and we were very very excited. I had scrubbed the wall down so we had a new blank canvas, and a lot more writing to put up this time. 

Hot chocolates and hedgehog again.

Larissa Romensky from ABC Open was there to interview everyone and catch the action. That's Soe Son Di being interviewed now. Yaren (pictured here in front) turned out to be a fantastic assistant for Larissa, eventually taking over the sound controls like a real pro.

Detail from Yaren's writing on Tuesday

We had P'Leah's little sister, Sarah, join us again on Tuesday, she helped to frame P'Leah's writing with the Karen flag colours. Below is a detail from P'Leah's poem, the whole poem is about how safe Horsham is compared to the refugee camp in Thailand. She finishes with the line: It's important to be safe. Thank-you, P'Leah. And thank-you to P'Leah's father also, who showed me an image of the Karen flag so we could pick out the chalk colours to outline P'Leah's words. I knew I had seen this flag before, then I remembered that it was the backdrop for the Karen New Year celebration in Nhill, which I was lucky enough to catch this year.

Madhu has written a beautiful poem to complete the collaboration with P'Leah. My favourite line is "I wish Divali was celebrated in Horsham." Divali is the Hindu "Festival of Lights", which I was very lucky to catch in Pushkar back in the early 90s. Check out the link by clicking on the word Divali to see the vibrant colours and lights and celebrations of this exciting festival. Then you will understand just how much Madhu must miss her Indian culture, even though she also feels she belongs to Horsham.

Yasmin Harradine joined the group on Tuesday, coming all the way from Dimboola. Yasmin is our first indigenous Australian WOW attendee, and I know from my casual teaching days at Horsham PS last year that Yasmin is also a very talented artist. I'm absolutely delighted to have her join the WOW club. Thank-you Mary French, (Yasmin's Art teacher at Dimboola PS) for bringing Yasmin to Tuesday sessions from now on. 

Soe Son Di couldn't make it on Thursday to finish off the work above, she just needs the colours now. This is a really lovely written piece, which has a really significant ending to it, it's has been cut off in this photo. We'll save it up for when it's all coloured in properly. 

                                Thursday 25th April 2013

Larissa is back with us on Thursday morning to continue videoing the Army lane wall. We are so lucky to have such a dedicated and supportive media resource such as Larissa. 

 Hozaira brought her mother, Noreen, and little brother, Abraham, to the writing party. Both Abraham and Hozaira have chosen to border their writing with the colours of the Pakistan flagBuket seems to be applying some warpaint to Abraham's face.

 What a fantastic message, Abraham! Thank-you for coming in as our WOW guest on Tuesday. I'm so glad you like living here in Horsham. And I also love the chalk warpaint...our WOW warrior!

Thank-you Hozaira! Yes, you are absolutely right, we all need the rain as much as the garden needs it. Rain these days brings so much hope and joy for all of us here in the Wimmera, it's a real blessing at any time. Even if it washes our writing off! That just means that we can write something new and different up.

  We have Shauna Stringer on board now, this is very exciting for the WOW group. Shauna arrived in Horsham from Ireland just six months ago, so it must still be pretty strange for her to be living here, and attending a new secondary school in a new country and culture on the other side of the world. I was so pleased that Shauna elected to first write in her native Irish Gaelic language before giving us the English translation. And the message is so beautifully simple and relevant, a wonderful reminder to us all who read it. Thank-you, Shauna, I'm really looking forward to seeing more of your writing up on the walls. It was Shauna's idea to use the Irish flag colours too, an idea that was taken up eagerly by the rest of the WOW writers. Below is a gorgeous photo of Shauna and her mother, Pauline. Pauline can speak Irish Gaelic, I must ask her if she can give me Irish lessons one day.

Buket's poetry is a joy to read. Here she is below, adding the final touches to her message. I love the Turkish flag's moon and star adorning her wall poem. And Buket's beautiful happy face too!

 Can you see the little blue arrows directing you to follow the words down both sides? You might try clicking on the image to zoom in.

 "Every Night My Heart Sleeps With Me.
   Now My Heart Lies In This Country."

Look who joined in on Thursday's session...Tina! Yay, thank-you Tina, for writing up your message and using the Tanzanian flag colours. There was no green chalk left by Thursday, and as it was a public holiday, nowhere to buy more. So Tina began with the colours that were there, and will finish it off next Tuesday with brighter green and also yellow.

Tina continued colouring in wall bricks with me into the sunny afternoon...a very pleasant way to pass time! Tina has a way with blending colours, doesn't it look amazing? We came up with a new plan on how to finish linking all the various messages in together. Keep your eyes on this blog, as we hope to have the piece finished by the end of next Tuesday's session.
Yasmin will be back on Tuesday to finish off her written piece. What a gorgeous message for us all: "There is so much air to share!" The simplicity of these lines are perfect, like finding gold!
"I love learning about my culture." Another very positive and  straight-from-the-heart statement from Yasmin. This is such a cool project, especially because the WOW writers are so cool! I cant wait until Yasmin colours in the bricks with black, yellow and red.

Once again, the WOW team would like to thank Kaylene at Cafe Thipatiy and Robert at Horsham Disposals for offering their wall to us, and also our sponsors SFYS ( School Focused Youth Services)  working in conjunction with Wimmera Uniting Care, and HRCC (Horsham Rural City Council) for funding the WOW project. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tina Kalenzo

Tina on top of Mt Arapiles last Saturday morning.

Tina told me that the mountain reminded her of Tanzania. We had a lovely time sitting up there with the 360 degree view. To see so far all around you can bring up memories and dreams at the same time. Sitting up there with the solid rock underneath us seemed to also bring feelings of solidarity and promise...we both felt very calm and safe and hopeful about the future. What a lovely way to start the day!

(Note the WOW blog on the laptop at the bottom left of photo)
Here is Tina painting at the Goat gallery in Natimuk. We thought that as I'm minding the gallery for my exhibition this month, it would be a great time to talk and paint and write together. 
But first we visited Nati Cafe for lunch....I went for the yummy rice and lentil salad....and Tina enjoyed the delicious quiche and salad....out in the back garden under the beautiful oak tree, with the sun shining...the lovely day continues! 
Tina talked to me while she painted, about trying to settle into a new town when you come from a different country and culture. She has some really interesting and important stories to share....being an Afro-Australian in a town like Horsham, a place where quite a few residents seem to feel "confronted" by meeting someone who has dark brown skin...it's not an easy ride. I will encourage her to write them down in our next WOW session, as they might help some readers to discover one or two things about themselves. 
And check out this photo below... That Irish-Australian skin of mine is looking  dangerously pink under this ozoneless Victorian sky.... Tina's is looking comfortably brown. Yes, that's pink and brown... funnily or not funnily, we both know of people who would swear our skins were white and black. They must be colour-blind.

Monday, April 22, 2013

WOW at the Mibus Centre

Our first WOW session at the Mibus Centre, upstairs at Horsham Library...what a fantastic space!  

P'Leah, Buket, Madhu, Yaren and Hozaira set about writing about what "home" means to them at this point of their lives. 

P'Leah: I love my home because it is safe for me. Australian     
               homes are really safe because they are made out of brick.    
               My home is safe for everyone in it.
               My home in my old country wasn't safe for me.

Buket:   At home we cook food, we keep warm and live there. 
               Every morning I wake up in my bed and then go to 
               school. My home is kind of my heart. 
               Every night my heart sleeps in my bed with me. 
               I am in a new country and it is my home for now. 
               Now my heart lies in this country.

Madhu: You should love your home with all your heart because     
               home is a place that gives you a safe feeling. 
               I like living in Australia, while India is always a home in 
               my heart. 

(L to R) P'Leah, Buket, Madhu
Yaren:  At home, I enjoy my mum's food. My mum is a good cook.     
               My mum cooks too much food sometimes! 
               I love my mum. 
               My house is beautiful. My heart feels warm.

Hozaira: I like to play and work at home. 
               My mum likes to cook at home. 
               I love to work and be me, and my brother is funny.
               My home country is Pakistan.



Thursday, April 11, 2013

Horsham is...

The Cafe Thipatiy wall piece was completed today by Madhu, P'Leah and P'Leah's sister, Sarah. Sarah is only six years of age, but we thought she did a beautiful job of colouring in bricks to frame the writing blocks.

To zoom in for a closer look, just click on the photo.

It looks fabulous now it's finished! 

And we don't even mind if it rains all over the writing.
We all need the rain. 
We have plenty of photos of this first piece of wall writing.

And we already know what we are going to put up on this wall for next time....
because after we finished with the Cafe Thipatiy wall today, we walked to the Horsham library to continue with our writing session. All the other WOW members were away because of school holidays, so Sarah was invited to join in with the writing exercises. We worked on a new form of Word-Art poetry, especially designed for brick wall writing. 

Keep an eye on this wall.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cafe Thipatiy!

Today the WOW group became cafe writers. Writing in a friendly cafe with huge glass windows looking out onto the street....glasses of water, vanilla milkshakes, cups of hot chocolate being served while busily writing "belonging to Horsham" word lists...hedgehog slice served as well... yum!

But wait! That's not all! 
Now for the really exciting bit: Writing on the Wall! WOW!

Kaylene from Cafe Thipatiy was so generous, she even provided a huge tub of chalk for the writing group to get started on the wall. Thank-you Kaylene.

P'Leah writing up her "belonging" words. P'Leah has beautiful handwriting, especially for one who has only been writing in English for a few years.

 Buket and P'leah working together on their word-wall. Buket is originally from Turkey. I had already met Buket through  teaching at her school last year, Horsham Primary. I was delighted to meet up with her again in this group, she is a wonderful thinker and writer.

Hozaira Ahmad just joined the WOW group today. Hazaira's parents moved from Pakistan to New Zealand in 1999, where her father was doing his PhD, then they moved to Adelaide in 2003, then Horsham in 2011. Yaren was being a very good friend to Hozaira today at Cafe Thipatiy, making sure that Hozaira was feeling perfectly comfortable and informed about our new WOW writing club. This is Yaren's third WOW session. She arrived in Horsham in 2009, all the way from Turkey. Yaren is Buket's sister, and is fantastic at coming up with new thoughts and ideas about how she connects to Horsham.

Madhu is a wordsmith! That means that she is very skilful at finding the right word for the right job. Those six words on the wall behind Madhu say so much on their own. Check out Madhu's completed wall below....or even better, come and check it out for real: Cafe Thipatiy, Army Lane, Horsham. Off Roberts Avenue, if you don't already know about it. Great coffee, great food, great service, great place!

You can zoom in on these photos by clicking on them individually.

A big thank-you also to Robert of Horsham Disposals for permission to write on his wall. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

I know I belong when I....

"I know I belong when I feel calm and safe. And in the past, I have had many fears."

Soe Son di Shwe ta Lee wrote the above piece in last week's WOW session. Soe Son di tells us at WOW how life was in refugee camps on the border of Burma and Thailand. There is so much to learn from hearing her story first-hand. We will post more on past stories another week. Soe Son di feels she has connection now to Horsham, as now she feels safe in her house. Feeling safe means she can feel calm. This makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Soe Son di still fears dogs in her new life in Horsham, but having just one fear to deal with is quite manageable!

I belong to me
My dreams will be my future
Which will guide my life

Madhu Annathurai is studying Haiku ( Japanese poetry). Madhu explained to the rest of the group how haiku can work: 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, 5 in the third. She came up with the beautiful piece of haiku above....I love it! Madhu's family is originally from Tamil Nadu, a state right down in the south of India, next door to Sri Lanka. She is very skilled at explaining the similarities and differences between Tamil customs and the Wimmera way. It's very exciting to have so much to share about different cultures in our group, very valuable information!

I feel I belong
In Horsham I can feel calm
I like feeling calm

P'Leah Po kyaut has also given us a haiku poem on the theme of belonging, and like Soe Son di, she knows she belongs when she feels calm. This is such an important message for those of us in Australia who have no idea what it means to have lived for years in a refugee camp. When we think of camping, we usually think of feeling safe in our tents or by the campfire with our family or friends at the foot of Mt. Arapiles, or in the Grampians or the Little Desert. These are lovely camping holidays. It's very, very, very different to be camping in overcrowded refugee camps with hundreds of other families and strangers, day in day out... for years..... not knowing if you will ever be allowed to live in a house again, or not knowing what it is like to feel warm, to sleep on a mattress, to have a full stomach....not knowing what it is to feel safe. This is what camping has meant to P'Leah in her past life. I am so glad that P'Leah and her family and friends can feel safe now in Horsham. P'Leah's poem has really helped us to explore the idea of belonging to a new community in a new country. Feeling safe is something we take for granted, those of us who live in solid houses.

"Stand up for yourself, make a difference in your future, and remember every time what it is that you want."

Yvonne Ndayikeze has come to live in Horsham from Tanzania, a country on the east coast of Africa. I love this message from Yvonne, it's so strong and positive! Yvonne has shared some stories with us in WOW which really highlight how difficult it can be to be caught between two very different cultures. It must be soooooo confusing! Which customs and ways of living do you continue in your new town, and which ones do you drop because they are "too different" to the new community? Your new friends at school "expect" you to think and act one way, your family in your new home "expect" you to continue thinking and acting the same way that you did in your original home country. Yvonne has shown in her writing that belonging must first happen to yourself. She has written "Life can be hard, but you have to keep trying". I cant wait until the next session, I want more of Yvonne's stories and thoughts to be shared.

"I don't really know where I belong, but I know one day I will know".

Tina Kalenzo is originally from Tanzania, and like Yvonne, Tina also has found it very difficult to move to a new town in a new country on a completely different continent, and try to keep a sense of "belonging" alive and strong. I asked Tina if she had time to adjust to Horsham when she arrived before going to the new school? No, not at all. Both Tina and Yvonne arrived in Horsham, then the next day found themselves at Horsham College. I know from travelling to many countries myself, that I always needed a few days to get used to the new climate and culture before feeling settled, just imagine what it must be like to suddenly attend a large school and you haven't even unpacked your luggage! How completely daunting! Tina also wrote that she wants to belong to a safe place. This is such an important message to those of us who have been brought up in Horsham or the Wimmera: the strong link between feeling that we belong to a place, and the feeling that we can be safe and secure in the new place.