The 52nd independent celebration for the Nigerian community

By Emma Berberi

Saturday 27/10/2012 was a very beautiful day. It was the day that the Nigerians celebrated their 52nd Independence Day. The event took place in a community centre in Moorabbin. It was a day to remember, a day full of colour. Everyone was beautifully attired in their African dress.

The event was well organised. Everyone was assigned a table that was beautifully decorated. The colours they used were green and white which are the colours of their flag. They had snacks on the tables and plenty of drinks. There were drinks provided all night.

The event started with a word of prayer from one of the Muslim clerics and a Christian pastor. After the prayers, there were the Australian and Nigerian national anthems.

The master of ceremony started the day by telling us a very interesting story about why the devil is very scared of Nigerians. One upon a time, the devil took an Englishman, an American man and a Nigerian man into a ship, he took them to the deep seas, once they were there; the devil informed them that they had to attain their freedom. And the only way out, was being witty and are able to outsmart the devil.

The Englishman was first. He took a coin and threw it in the water. The devil dived into the water and went and found the coin so he eats the Englishman. The American man was next; he took a pin and threw it into the water. The devil dived into the water and found the pin so he eats the American man.

Finally it was the Nigerian man’s turn; he got a cup of water and poured it into the sea, and the devil was outwitted because there was no way he was going to separate the water from the cup and the water from the sea. The Nigerian man was spared his life by the devil. And from that day hence forth, the devil is very scared of Nigerians.
Then came the speeches from some VIPs at the event. After that, everyone had to line up for dinner. After dinner there was the traditional dance which was performed by a group of young girls, then performances to entertain the guests.

The grand finale to the performances was the musician being described as the best male artist in Australia, none other than Timomatic. He was absolutely amazing everyone was on the dance floor dancing. He was very entertaining with his music.
After the performance from Timomatic, it was time to award the best dressed couple for the night. The award was taken by one of the couples who were beautifully dressed. They were wearing their traditional beads from head to toe. And they absolutely deserved to win.

Interview with Sudanese singer songwriter, Ajak Mabia

Singer songwriter, Ajak Mabia

By Alpha Furbell

Ajak Mabia is one of Melbourne’s most popular Sudanese singer songwriters. She recently traveled to America to perform at an African festival in Boston. I caught up with Ajak to talk to her about the tour.

Alpha: Hi Ajak, it’s great to meet you.

Ajak: Thank you Alpha.

Alpha: I heard that you have been travelling in the U.S. in July, tell me about your trip to the United States and how it came all about. How long did you stay in Boston?

Ajak: I stayed in Boston for two months. My trip to the United States came about when I was invited by African festival organisers to attend one of the biggest African festivals in Boston held every year. It was also a chance for me to visit my relatives in New Hemisphere. I visited lots of Sudanese communities in Boston and Hemisphere where I spent most of time. What surprised me was that all the communities regardless of political division back in Sudan; they live together very well in United States. For example, the communities in America celebrate events such as weddings and birthdays together. It was very interested to see all Sudanese living in harmony in Boston. It gave me a sense of real a community.

Alpha: Did you perform any music in the USA?

I performed at African American Master Artist-in-Residence Program (AAMARP).This is African American Arts College at University of Boston. The event was organised by the well-known Sudanese-American visual artist, originally from North Sudan. He organised the show to raise some funds help rebuild a church burnt by the Sudanese government in Khartoum and he invited me to perform in that event. The show was great and I enjoyed because people enjoyed my music. In that event, there was a display of photos of people who had been killed in the Darfur region.

Alpha: Did you notice any difference between the Sudanese communities in Australian and the Community in the USA?

Ajak: Yes there was a big difference. Sudanese people in USA are more active, most people work in the USA while in Australia most people stay without work. Australia is a good place to live but Sudanese in particular face difficulties to find a work. America challenges you but there are more chances of getting work. That is why people can get jobs in different areas of their expertise. In Australia, African’s are ‘frozen’ – I use the word frozen because Sudanese even these who have a good education are not getting jobs because they are Africans. So, racism is the main problem facing Sudanese in Australia. That is why many people have lost their self-confidence. Australian main stream media has been portraying negative image of Africans in Australia.

Alpha: Did you go anywhere else?

Ajak: Yes, I went to Canada. I like Canada very much because there is very nice high rise building and people are also nice and easy going. In Canada I played music in a place called Ascent run by Caribbeans living in Canada. Unfortunately, I did not meet any Sudanese because I did not have time go around places where most Sudanese live. My trip to Canada were organised by a woman who I knew for a long time. She invited me to Canada. She is a film maker and is current making a movie about South Sudan. The movie is called Act of Rove.

Alpha: Do you plan to go back to the United States?

Ajak: I received a huge support from Sudanese living in the USA. I hope to visit the USA and Sudanese communities again sometime in the future.

Alpha: Thank you Ajak.

Ajak: Good to talk you Alpha.

THE POOR ARE DESPERATE FOR A PIECE OF BREAD: a critic of the second series of Go Back to Where You Came From, SBS TV, 2012

By Ajak Kwai

Background

The first series of the SBS program Go Back to Where You Came From started in 2011. The reaction was very positive because it was new; people didn’t know the whole story about the refugees and it provoked those who were extreme.

In Australian politics refugees and asylum seekers have been used by Australian politicians, especially since John Howard’s leadership that started in 1996. However, refugees who come to Australia by boat are locked up for a long time.

In the 1970s and 1980s, a similar situation happened when the Vietnamese first arrived; they were first locked up before processing. The treatment of non-White migrants and refugees to Australia has been an issue since the Nineteenth century. The White Australian policy showed the fear of Australians to outsider.

Beneath the surface of Australian society, racism is still boiling over. It needs to be discussed rather than covered up. In spite of Australia’s multiculturalism in the 1980s and 1990s, the birth of One Nation showed the continuation of Australia’s ‘White’ policy. During the John Howard government, Australia’s racism became obvious to the whole world. The behaviour of Australia upset the United Nations, which said it was against human rights.

Howard’s plan was to process asylum seekers in detention centres offshore, in Nauru, which is not Australian territory. The issue of asylum seekers and their method of entry to Australia by sea from Indonesia has continued to escalate public fear and political unrest. Since the election of the Labor government in 2007, and a sharp rise in asylum seekers seeking refuge in Australia by sea from Indonesia, the asylum seeker issue has dominated the politics and social discussion.

Go Back to Where You Came from: Raising awareness or Entertainment? 

The SBS program Go Back to Where You Came From investigated all these things. The question I am most an interested in is; what is this program‘s purpose?. Is it to raise the social awareness of racism in Australia? Or is it really entertainment that is just to stir up society over this issue?

I believe that it was just a kind of entertainment that plays with the big issues with no real feeling.   The emotions they play with are not their emotions or their lives. The whole show’s set up was the idea that by walking in someone’s shoes they will feel the same pain and in this way they can understand and appreciate what the asylum seekers went through and why they would risk their lives and come by boat to Australia.

But, the participants could never fully relate to the experience. I think the whole program was like an adventure, a reality TV show for a particular audience who wanted to feel the pain of other people, that if they share the pain their conscience is clear. I also think, as some of the participants said on the Insider program when they returned, there was a lot of editing that changed dialogue and action to suit the producers’ script.

Also, Angry Anderson admitted he has said what he thought the producers wanted to hear so he could “get the gig”. In this moment I realised that Go  Back to Where You Came From  was show business. Just another type of entertainment for another type of audience.  It also made me realise that the refugees and asylum seekers they used in Australia and visited overseas were like toys. A discussion of Michael Smith’s statements can show how his character was used to provoke the audience.

Michael in Somalia

In the first visit from Michael Smith and Angry Anderson to the refugees and the former asylum seekers’ houses in Dandenong, Abdi’s house and Hamid’s house, Michael was very arrogant. On the way, Michael said, “what will we find…we’ll probably find some smelly cous cous.” This indicated his attitudes towards the refugees and to people from cultures other than the traditional Anglo-Celtic Australian culture.

His words were not consistent, especially when he went to the camp with 3500 refugees, where most were children and woman.

In Somalia, Michael Smith was shown becoming friends with the children and showing them photos of his children in Australia, his swimming pool and the Australian way of life. He also said about the Somalis, “is this what we want to turn Australia into?” after he had cried and was shown to be more compassionate. It seems like the producers wanted to continually show contrasts to make drama and to stir the boiling pot of racism in Australia.

Consciences for sale: advertising Go Back to Where You Came From DVDs

This is exactly what I think it is: Go Back to Where You Came From is just another piece of commercial television. The picture shows the purpose of the show. It is helping to sell products to an audience who can never walk in the shoes of the people it uses.

And this is the questions I want to finish with: Was Go Back to Where You Came From for refugees? Was it beneficial for refugees or was it form of entertainment? Ask, who benefits?: SBS TV, the producers, the academics involved, the six prominent and outspoken Australians who all “got the gig”, who after taking a life-risking “refugee journey” – in fact just a different type of reality TV show – can get benefit in the media for their career, even though I don’t believe they are bad people.

What really benefits is that big boiling pot of Australian racism. I wish the Somalis and Afghanis had told them all: Leave us alone. Don’t make us toys for your television. Go back to where you came from.

Africa on the stage

By Ahmed Zaroog, reporter at Sudanese Australian Voices (SAV)

African young womens, from the Social Studio, were on the stage in Melbourne Spring fashion show.

The Social Studio is a fashion label and social enterprise that celebrates the style and skills of diverse cultures in Australia.

Models from The Social Studio

It celebrates opportunity, quality and community through fashion label, retail shop, digital printing studio and cafe, The Cutting Table.

Also it creates unique, high quality garments that are manufactured on-site in their studio in Collingwood, creating jobs and educational opportunities for talented members of new and emerging migrant and refugee communities.

The Social Studio approaches design from an environmentally sustainable perspective. They create garments with minimal fabric waste and source materials from the local fashion industry. Fabric off-cuts are used to create jewellery and accessories.

The Social Studio kicked off Melbourne Spring Fashion Week with the launch of its spring collection,
Which celebrates the adventurous and bold spirit of their designers. The spring collection draws inspiration from, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Watch out for the metallic prints based on Sudanese henna patterns and neon headscarves.The event included a fashion parade and contemporary dance performance at the Atrium, Federation Square, on Monday September 3.

The Printing Studio is a digital textile printing enterprise. The benefits of this printing technique include dazzling color, minimal fabric waste and zero ink waste.

The Cutting Table Cafe serves East and West African inspired dishes, locally roasted and ethically sourced coffee, organic juices and fresh made smoothies and is open weekdays 7am – 3.30pm and Saturday 9am-4.30pm.

Wednesday African Night is open 6-10pm and includes a delicious banquet, Ethiopian coffee ceremony and lives music and dancing.

On Saturday mornings the Social Studio hosts Craft and Coffee, for creative people to bring in craft projects to work on around our communal table.

The Social Studio is certified by Ethical Clothing Australia.