Reflecting on their experience of coming to Northern Ireland and making here their home, migrants showcased their creative work on the SAME/Difference programme.
The project was supported through the CR/CD Scheme from the Community Relations Council (CRC).
The online showcase included readings and photographic images from participants, and was led Quotidian, which aims to enrich and enhance civic space, civic experience and public discourse with literature.
Maria McManus, Artistic Director of Quotidian, said: “Words matter and we are engaged in Changing The Message.”
SAME/Difference explored issues of cultural identity, gender equality and self-expression. The belief is that creating and sharing personal narratives can promote understanding and belonging.
“We use creative writing and photography as the means of personal storytelling,” Maria explained. “As human beings our stories are fundamental to our sense of self, our sense of personhood.”
Given how much people have been separated this past year due to the lockdown, it is even more vitally important to connect with people from new communities. Delivering the project online helped with this connection.
“As humans we need connection, and we need to feel we belong,” Maria said. “We really wanted to prioritise connecting with people from the new communities – those whose countries of origin were elsewhere.”
Participants hailed from a wide range of countries of origin and have made their homes in Northern Ireland.
“They have been experimenting with writing and making images about things meaningful to them and sharing their work and personal narratives with the other participants,” Maria said. “The showcase of work is a critical part of the process overall.”
The challenges of working within a multi-cultural environment were also an opportunity. Maria explained:
“Between Nandi and Viviana [programme facilitators], they speak eight languages, and we knew that the participants were also at various levels of fluency in English – so we accepted that differences in language were an opportunity – that human experience can be difficult to articulate at the best of times, and we wanted to prioritise expression, as opposed to expression in English.”
Building a healthy, inclusive and progressive society
While the pandemic has been compounding the isolation of all citizens, funding and support from the Community Relations Council helped with programme innovation and capacity building.
“CRC were vital support,” Maria said. “We have been able to innovate and show that the programme can work online and that the rationale for doing so is strong and clearly thought out.
“Through this funding, we have been able to build our online capacity and to learn through doing.”
Read more about Quotidian here: https://quotidian.ie/