It’s International Diversity Day and at Verity La we’re taking this opportunity to announce our Discoursing Diaspora writing and arts project.
International Diversity Day (also known as World Day for Cultural Diversity, Dialogue and Development) is a United Nations sanctioned holiday celebrated on 21 May worldwide. It aims to foster community understanding of the value of cultural diversity and encourage people from various backgrounds to live harmoniously. And boy, do we need that right now!
At Verity La we’ve decided to do our bit by launching Discoursing Diaspora, a project which strives to recognize the work of those living through, or standing in solidarity with those experiencing, diaspora. We wish to support writers and artists experiencing exclusion from the dominant discourse by creating a space for their unique narratives, as well as providing a platform for works which address issues of social justice.
For this project we will accept submissions of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, essay, multimedia – and anything in between. We expect that many of the works will come from people whose English language skills are still developing, and as such, full editorial support will be given to successful submissions by the project’s co-editors, Ramon Loyola and Michele Seminara. Works by those who aren’t writing from a personal experience of diaspora will also be considered as long as they explore themes of social justice, diversity and inclusion.
Please see our Discoursing Diaspora page for more information and for full details on how to submit to the project. And please spread the word to help get those submissions rolling in!
Our first piece from the Diaspora project is ‘The Strong Sunflower’, a poem by Iranian asylum seeker Mohammad Ali Maleki, who is currently living in detention on Manus Island.
The Strong Sunflower
Translated from Farsi by Mansour Shoushtari
Edited by Michele Seminara
Manus Island knew nothing of sunflowers
so I planted some seeds, from my heart, on Manus.
These seeds from a refugee, me,
grew into a flower for the Manus people
and the heat of the sun created new hope in their hearts.
I planted this happiness into the heart of the soil,
I willingly left it as a souvenir—
now in my name I bequeath it
to all who may come.
You, sunflower, are a stranger, like me, on Manus;
I hope you will not be cursed here.
Friends help me stay sane in this land;
I hope your friends, the sun and the rain, will help you.
Sunflower, my people have been disrespected
but I’m happy this island is kind to you,
my sunflower friends
Mohammad Ali Maleki, originally from Iran, was forced to leave his family and country in 2013 and came to Australia as an asylum seeker. He has been detained on Manus Island ever since.
In Iran, Mohammad worked as a tailor and as a prop maker in the film industry. Since living on Manus Island, he has begun gardening and writing poetry, activities which give him purpose and hope.