"I am Hope"
Poems by refugees
Often when we collect testimonies from refugees, we focus on the ordeals they went through, their efforts to build a new life, their challenges and their hopes. In the few workshops that I facilitated with refugees living in Nairobi and Kakuma in May 2019, my intent was of a completely different nature: that individuals reach deep inside themselves and define who they are poetically, celebrating the gifts that they offer to their community.
In cultures where modesty is a tacit rule, daring to speak in "I am" is not an easy thing, but poetry allows it with its magic and delicate touch, which precisely marry our singularity to the universal. Naming our own qualities in front of a group of peers is a real process of empowerment, which also deepens the bond and respect in the group. These texts were crafted in just a few minutes, but their scope is timeless and revives ancient oral traditions of self-celebration present in many countries of Africa. This booklet is a compilation of the of the poems that were joyfully and spontaneously created by refugees on this occasion.
And these wonderful human beings offer a powerful message: “I am hope”, and beyond: “I am light”. In their poems, the image of light returns constantly with a radiant and obvious strength. Each of them, in their own way, works in dark places of violence, injustice or suffering. Each of them is an artisan of light, developing solidarity, peaceful coexistence, respect for human rights in an amazing patchwork setting of cultures and languages.
Perhaps by reading these lines you will slip into these multiple “I” and resonate in our common humanity.