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Poems help African Kiwi make Capital his home

Mar 17th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

abdulla at workMAIN

BEHIND THE MIKE: Abdalla Gabriel at Wellington Access Radio.

ABDALLA Gabriel’s poetry will be showcased with the work of other former refugees at Te Papa next month.

The Lower Hutt man’s work will be part of an exhibition called The Mixing Room: stories from young refugees in New Zealand, in which these men and women are being “given a voice” to share their stories about becoming Kiwis.

Abdalla uses poetry to help him work through his life experiences of growing up in refugee camps after fleeing war-torn Sudan and learning to rely on himself.

He loves the beauty in writing, its ability to make him laugh or even cry at times, and was encouraged to write by friends.

He says he has written about 100 poems so far and hopes to get them published.

Coping with homesickness was hard, but even harder for Abdalla was trying to fit in with his new Kiwi community.

He describes the transition as learning “like a new baby”.

“The communication, the language, the street looked different too because I only see white people and I guess got scared and didn’t feel sense of belonging.

“Some people pick on me on the road, they say bad stuff to me and I feel like ‘how will I live here all my life’,” he says of his early experiences when he arrived in 2003.

“I was already not someone young, that was hard,” says Abdallah, who made the decision to further his education which has led to his own slot on community radio.

New Zealanders get to reflect on how they treat migrants and refugees on March 21, Race Relations Day, and while Abdalla has had bad experiences, he is more philosophical about racist remarks now.

“In reality everyone is sometimes racist, but it’s only a matter of showing who you are to people.”

It helped for Abdalla to live close to the then small but growing Sudanese community in the Hutt Valley.

His assimilation into the Kiwi way of life was helped through schooling and extending his network of friends through sports clubs.

Later that included some heavy partying, but having a daughter with his then New Zealand-Tokelauan girlfriend three years ago, forced him to slow up and focus, to do something for his daughter.

“[At first] I ran away to Auckland. I didn’t want to be a father but my friend persuaded me to come back…I really want to be a good father for my daughter.”

He applied for a media course which led to a six-month contract at Wellington Access Radio 783am, where he now has his own 30-minute world music show every Wednesday from 3pm to 3.30pm.

His dream is to perform in his own rap group when he leaves the station at the end of April.

Abdalla feels lucky to be in New Zealand although he admits to feeling stressed, particularly over what the future holds for him once he leaves Wellington Access Radio.

“[But] at least I can sleep without having to be alert that someone might be attacking me and I can relax with no fear,” he says, referring to his former life in Sudan.

“I see myself as an African Kiwi now.”

Perhaps one day I shall go out into the quieten city and

recognize myself among the crow of souls, I will say to them,

“hey look, there goes the man I really am”.

Would they dared to acknowledge me?

No one responded, there was silence in the atmosphere,

silence on mountain top, silence beneath the universe.

Then the world would moved on restlessly, making its love,

greed, pride, and money; minding its own business.

Shamefully, I closed my eyes, then rest my mouth,

as silence is the only language,

that does not need an interpreter.

– Abdalla Gabriel

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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  1. What a beautiful poem, can’t wait for the exhibiton!

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