Creating power with language, Lesvos 2016

Sham and I met at the Mosaic Centre in Lesvos, a community center where refugees and locals come together to participate in teaching courses and art classes. A pocket of building together on an island carrying the weight of the front line, the arrival point of refugees as they step soil from the boat.

Sham was sitting outside in the yard. We were introduced by our common friend Barbara. I don’t remember what where the first words we exchanged but there was a time when Sham spoke about his poetry. I love poetry and I have been trying to make a blog for the last 8 years. I asked him what he wrote about: Europe, his experiences of being a refugee. As the conversation went on we discussed how Sham could make a blog with his poems, I would help him do that. It came around that it was Sham and our friendship that actually helped to make a blog.

Sham, Barbara, me and Gulzaman went for dinner in a Greek taverna. It was a full moon night and we were sitting by the sea. We shared details of our lives, our families and dreams things that bring people closer.

By the end of that night Sham and I had connected on facebook. In a few minutes he had sent me his poems, an invitation to me and Barbara for homemade food at their house and later on the beginnings of a blog.

That’s how Sham connects. In a way that makes you write half of a page about meeting him without mentioning his painful history. Sham comes from a village in Pakistan. His family still lives there. He is the first one in his village that he studied. He studied computer science and English. His brother as many other young people in Pakistan was killed by a gang. Sham had to leave home when he was threatened to be killed. He got smuggled in Europe. On the way he got kidnapped and tortured, more money was given by his family and he arrived here. A few days that he arrived the decision was taken by Europe that he is going to be deported as he is from Pakistan. His poems were asking Europe about his deportation. Sham as many other young people created gradually a grassroots international community of friends. Recording the news from the camps, giving interviews and participating in documentaries he also created a network with global connections.

So the third time that Sham and I met we wrote a poem for the sea and life- a line each. We had some food which he did not particularly like. We met just one last time. I left from Lesvos.img_3057

We stay connected online. And when Sham’s request for asylum was rejected from Greece we created with him and Barbara an interactive exhibition with his poems in Berlin. The exhibition became international and was joined by others as did his dialogue with Europe. People, refugees, immigrants and local that came together and responded to each other poems with that they love, what they miss, whom they are and they are becoming other than and along with a refugee, a migrant, a local. Sham and I stayed connected, we did online courses together and we became friends coming from two very different cultures and with a similar love for words.

Now Sham is in Paris. He has registered there and we are waiting for his asylum process. In the meanwhile his and others voices have travelled around the world. In collaboration with Sham Dialogues Across Borders, our interactive exhibition, is developing and being re-created in refugee camps, galleries, universities, conferences and local community venues around the world in 2017.

Sham is part of a generation of young people who have come to Europe with the dream to live, to lead a better life. He wants to get an education.

When I talk with him, I remember that dreams are still alive, no matter how dusted and broken they can come together in a new form. Sham’s dream is to go back to Pakistan and build a school for young people in his country, to help them have a different experience of travelling to Europe than he did.


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