I facilitated a writing workshop for the Biennial 2015 at a local City Council. It was my brain child: born when their Curator and Visual Arts Co-ordinator asked me to help her plan an event that would include the ethnic communities in their municipality. I’d met V a couple of years before, when she curated a students’ exhibition which included works from my Chinese Calligraphy class.
I told her that I’m a writer, not an artist and suggested the workshop. So they invited local citizens from twelve different ethnic backgrounds to write their stories with reference to ‘Imagining Place’, the theme of the Biennial.
It was a humbling experience. I’d planned a program to guide the writers through the process of storytelling but was forced to abort it.
Some of the participants arrived with their stories already written and refused to work on them further. One sixteen year old boy bolted. Two announced that they had prior appointments and must leave early.
Yet, two hours before the workshop was to end, I had eleven stories – six on a USB memory stick (from those who wrote on laptops that Council provided), two on emails (from writers who brought their own laptops) and three on paper.
It took me hours to decipher and edit those stories, preparing them for publication. There was a book launch; the booklet displayed and made available as part of the Biennial.
Although nothing went as planned at the workshop, the book is a moving tribute to the experiences of migrants who now call Australia home.
One of the authors who sent me his story by email wrote to me in reply to my acknowledgement (he was one of those who had to leave early):
Thanks for making time yesterday.
It was very good opportunities for me to where am I come from and how I living light now.
It actually too bad i could not have much preparing though..
Please let me know something I have to fix or change or don’t understand thanks.