Benjamin Zephaniah

“Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach” Chagos themed poetry live in London this Tuesday

Posted in Benjamin Zephaniah, Cultural, Environment, events, MPA on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment

 

You can hear a reading of the poem from 7PM at Market Bar in Dalston

You can hear a reading of the poem from 7PM at Market Bar in Dalston

Saradha Soobrayen’s poem ‘Their homecoming is not yet out of reach, not yet out of sight,’ has won 1st Prize in the Pacuare Poetry Competition. The poem itself looks at the connection between environmentalism and the Chagossian fight for return, emphasising the positive and intrinsic relationship between Chagossians and their homeland.

As part of the celebrations, you can hear a live reading of the poem on Tuesday 14thJune at 7pm at the Ridley Market Bar, Dalston London. All are welcome to the event. There is a voluntary £5 suggested donation for attendance, which goes towards maintenance of the Pacure Nature Reserve.

The Judges awarded the title of Poet Laureate of the Pacure Nature Reserve for 2016 to Saradha who was born in London of Mauritian heritage. Commenting on their decision the judges praised the poem’s key winning qualities: clear and wise communication, responsiveness, and specificity in the poem’s attention. to detail and the way it linked the Chagossians deportation, the military base which replaced their society and the establishment of the controversial Marine Protected Area in 2010 especially impressed the judges:

 

Snippet of text from 'Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach'

Snippet of text from ‘Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach’

 

The below extract from ‘Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach’ , considers the experience of many Chagossians who were forced from their homeland as children and into lifelong exile, leaving a legacy of displacement for future generations.

 

Every time he slides out a memory, a child slips back,

and boards the boat. The man considers what the child

 

knew then—the forced removal—the longing to return.

The Archipelago remembers him as a boy and each generation

 

is charged to remember the Archipelago. The past is tidal

in their minds or shall I say in their souls while the land waits

 

to recover the older selves, tonton, tantinn, gran-per, gran-mer,

a dying community, separated by unseen things, spirit from sea,

 

hope from land and yet united by wishful thinking, mouth

by mouth, their communal truths told in one continuous breath.

 

The winning poem is part of a book-length sequence written to raise awareness of the depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago and to attract funds to benefit the Chagossian community living in extreme difficulty in exile. Saradha plans to write 2000 lines of poetry to represent not only the 2000 islanders forcibly removed from the Chagos Archipelago but to also commemorate the lives of ancestors and those who have recently departed. Future poems will draw upon the experiences of the various Chagossian groups and their supporters, as well as on the vital contribution from historians, conservationists, anthropologists, law academics and politicians.

Through literature, art and collaborartive work, Saradha will also be exploring ways of engaging, celebrating Chagossian cultural heritage to enhance the lives of the current and future generations of Chagossians currently living in exile in Crawley, London, Manchester, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

To find out more, or to get involved you can contact us at ukchagos@gmail.com

Visit saradhasoobrayen.com to read the latest Chagos poems, or follow Saradha on twitter soundslikeroootshoc @saradharootschoc for news of forthcoming performances.

Edinburgh Mural tells the story of Chagossian exile

Posted in Benjamin Zephaniah, Campaign, Cultural, Edinburgh on March 3rd, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

There’s over six thousand miles between Diego Garcia and Edinburgh. Thanks to the joint efforts of film-maker Gillian Morrison, artist Mike Greenlaw and his associate Greg Mitchell, however, one prime spot in the Scottish capital is spreading the word about the forced deportation, exile and long hard fight for return of the Chagossian people.

The exciting new art project is a powerfully simple depiction of almost half a century of injustice. Completed under the banner of Artists for Justice and Peace, the work is currently available to view at St John’s Church on Princes Street, bang in the centre of in Edinburgh. Pictures in this case paint many thousands of words so have a look below.

 

Gillian and Mike became acquainted with one another, and indeed the fight for the Chagossian justice, via the Edinburgh South ‘Yes Cafe,’ which in part acts as a social and political hub for pro-Scottish independence activists. The cafe has hosted screenings of the John Pilger film ‘Stealing a Nation’ and is planning further events to promote the Chagossian cause.

The artist Mike Greenlaw explained that St John’s had a long and proud tradition of political murals. Mike noted that “my work on the

Edinburgh South Yes Cafe, which has hosted events promoting the Chagossian campaign

Edinburgh South Yes Cafe, which has hosted events promoting the Chagossian campaign

Chagossian people’s struggle is the latest mural in a 32 year history of murals at St. John’s, which has encompassed issues such as apartheid, the conflict in Israel/Palestine, environmental Issues, world poverty and nuclear arms.”

“I hope that my work might help to raise some awareness of the plight of the people of the Chagos Islands,” he added explaining the motivation behind his choosing the Chagossian cause as the subject for his piece.

Gillian Morrison, as well as orchestrating the whole project, is currently making a film about the Chagossian people’s deportation, suffering in exile and fight to return. We look forward to seeing the final version and are hugely appreciative of Gillian’s interest in this often overlooked, appalling and ongoing human rights abuse.

Many thanks are due to Gillian who put a lot of effort into bringing this work into being, and of course to Mike for creating such a beautiful representation of the terrible injustice suffered by the Chagossian people.

Newly appointed UK Chagos Support Association Patron and celebrated poet Benjamin Zephaniah thanked those involved for their work and added that he hoped the art work would motivate people to support the return campaign.

“2015 is a massive opportunity to win a measure of justice for the Chagossian people. The Government have committed to making a decision on supporting return prior to the election, we need more people demanding our MPs support the Chagossians’ simple human right to go home. We are hugely grateful to Mike, Gillian and Greg for delivering this fantastic project and beautiful artwork, which spreads the word on the urgency of ending decades of oppression.”

The final scene of the mural, viewable above, calls on readers to take action, by writing to your MP and generally making your voice heard. We certainly echo this demand and ask everyone to take what action they can.

"Chagossians have waited more than forty years for justice, there should be no delay now." Our response to Government Statement on Chagossian Return

Posted in APPG, Ben Fogle, Benjamin Zephaniah, Campaign, coverage, Diego Garcia, FCO, Feasability Study, Philippa Gregory, resettlement on February 10th, 2015 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

Earlier today (10th February) the Government made a statement announcing the publication of the Foreign Office-commissioned KPMG report into the feasibility of Chagossian resettlement of their homeland. Our initial reaction is broadly positive and can be read below. The

Foreign Office Statement is cautious; but clear return is possible

Foreign Office Statement is cautious; but clear return is possible

Government’s statement, which announces the beginning of a “policy review,” can be read in full here.

The UK Chagos Support Association very much welcomes KPMG’s report into the feasability of Chagossian return to their homeland and its conclusion that there are no practical, security or environmental obstacles to resettlement. The Government’s confirmation that it will now engage in a serious and thorough policy review is also welcome.

The indication that the unique history of the Chagossian people will be a primary factor in this policy review is especially pleasing. The forced deportation of Chagossians and their neglect in exile by successive administrations places an unavoidable moral obligation on the UK Government to deliver justice to a much abused community.

The report rightly recongises any resettlement programme is complex, but it also demonstrates that there are no challenges to return which can not be overcome with appropriate planning and management.

Buildings like this beautiful church could soon see life again

Buildings like this beautiful church could soon see life again

We understand the Government’s concern that disproportionate costs should not fall on UK taxpayers. We are confident, however, that by efficiently managing processes, utilising a wide variety of funding sources and exploring income generating opportunities, Chagossian return can be delivered with extremely minimal cost to UK citizens.

Upon receiving the report, UK Chagos Support Association Patron and Novelist Philippa Gregory also reacted positivity, commenting;

“I am so pleased that KPMG has consulted the Chagossians as to their future and suggested ways that they could return to their rightful homeland at last. The Chagossians have waited more than forty years for justice, there should be no delay now.”

“While there is work to do on the detail of return, the Government can agree to the principle at once and make a commitment to these people who have been cruelly exiled for too long. The older people want to see their homeland before they die and the younger people are eager to make a start on their new lives. I urge the Foreign Office to make a commitment to return now.”

We accordingly look forward to working with the Chagossian community, Government officials and other stakeholders to develop and deliver a practical resettlement project in the near . Recognition of wider concerns of the Chagossian people beyond resettlement is also highly welcome and it is only right these are addressed simultaneously with central aim of return.

If you have any further queries about this issue do not hesitate to get in touch. Contact details can be found in the ‘contact us’ tab in the top left.

Chagos Islands: The ‘point of return’ beckons for Chagosians

Posted in APPG, Ben Fogle, Benjamin Zephaniah, CCT, CRG, Diego Garcia, EU, FCO, Feasability Study, Labour, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, Parliament, Philippa Gregory, Phillip Hammond, resettlement, UN, USA, William Hague on February 9th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

chagos

 

Over four decades ago, citizens of the picturesque Indian Ocean archipelago of Chagos were tricked or forcibly removed from their land by the UK to make way for a US military base following a secret deal between the two countries. The suffering of the forcibly exiled Chagossians, and their fight to return home is well documented. Now a new report brings hope their ordeal could soon be over. Dr Sean Carey finds out how.