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Source: AMES

Refugees share their experiences through written and spoken word

As conflict rages in Gaza, Ukraine and elsewhere, the voices of refugees are being heard through a new collection of prose, poems and song lyrics that probe the essence of human displacement.

The 2023 Heartlands Art Project has collected a haunting array of written works by refugees exploring the themes of ‘homeland’ and ‘belonging’.

The collection of works, published by migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia and officially launched today, provides a glimpse into the experiences, hopes, dreams and passions of the millions of humans displaced by conflict.

Aspiring writers from a broad spectrum of refugee communities have produced poems, prose, song lyrics and spoken word pieces for this year’s Heartlands. Hailing from countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Nepal, Ukraine, Venezuela and Ethiopia, the writers’ work gives insights into the refugee journey and highlights our common humanity.

One of the writers, Syrian refugee Rahaf Al Maalouf, said Heartlands was an opportunity to express the emotions that conflict and displacement evoke.

“Heartlands is chance to talk to people on an emotional Ievel about what it means to be a refugee and have to flee everything you have known and loved,” Rahaf said.

“For me it is an opportunity to use words and imagery to describe how I feel about what has happened to my homeland,” she said.

For Ukrainian writer Liza Maksymchuk, Heartland was an opportunity to express solidarity with her homeland and its people.

“I felt compelled to write about how I feel about what has happened to Ukraine over the past two years and my deep connections to the land and people,” Liza said.    

Now in its 11th year, Heartlands offers the opportunity for refugees and migrants tell their own stories through various forms of art.

One of the project’s aims is to give newly arrived migrants and refugees the opportunity to tell the authentic stories that reflect their experiences, challenges, achievements and aspirations  

“Much of what we see in the media about refugees, migrants and emerging communities is portrayed through the prism of mainstream society. Heartlands 2019 has offered the opportunity for culturally and linguistically diverse youth to tell their own authentic stories using accessible digital tools,” said AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth.

“This year we are witnessing the largest displacement crisis in global history with more than 110 million people forced to flee their homes. And we are seeing an escalation in conflicts across the across the world, notable in places like Ukraine, Sudan and in Israel and Gaza,” Ms Scarth said.

“In a global landscape of conflict and displacement, it’s important to understand the journeys refugees and migrants make and the reasons they make them – and also to acknowledge the contributions they have made to this country and continue to make.

“The aim of the project is to transcend cultural barriers to reveal the hopes, dreams, challenges and everyday lives of people who make up our refugee communities,” she said.