This summer, Ministry of Stories were thrilled to work with poet, rapper, and educator Mohammed Yahya and budding young writers aged 10 -15 from Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets to explore stories of migration and exile through poetry, song and rap.
Forced to flee his native Mozambique during the Civil War, Mohammed uses music and poetry to channel his thoughts, energy and emotions. Using his band Native Sun’s song ‘Mother and Son’ as inspiration, our intrepid writers created their own poetry dialogue between family members arguing whether or not to stay in their home country. Some imagined they were in Syria, others set their dialogue in Ghana and some drew on their own personal stories of migration.
Bro I have to leave
Im chasing job opportunities
Let me follow my dreams
Cause here I am wanted by the police
You have many responsibilities
Mum is begging down on her knees
Don’t go i’m telling you please
Just stay, It’ll put our lives at ease
In this country there is war
I don’t want to suffer anymore
So let me pull out my passport from the drawer
And end this beef for once and for all
Yaqub and Ubaydullah
My brother you are the only shine in our house
To get the information
I want you to stay
Here you have everything
If you don’t feel this way
I will give you anything
I want you to stay
But want you to glow
I don’t want you to fly
I don’t want you to go
As part of the project, we also welcomed Indonesian writer and literacy advocate Nila Tanzil and New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds, who showcased how their work explores themes of identity and exile. Jason spoke about how important it is for young people to see themselves represented in literature “I didn’t read ‘til I was 18, we were not in the books so I went to the music.” Nila shared her new children’s book ‘Epi’s New Friend’ which helped inspire the young writers to create their own poems for children about the experience of being a refugee.
These powerful poems will be mixed with backing tracks by Mohammed and released alongside a creative writing teaching resource through Counterpoints Arts for Refugee Week 2020. We look forward to inspiring other young writers to investigate themes of exile and migration through poetry and rap.