Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Voices of Exile: Bhutanese Refugees Speak Out

Past few weeks were a flurry of activities regarding Bhutanese refugees. In pre-Dashain South Asian Film Festival, I watched Eviction, a documentary film by Grady Walker on the plights of refugees. I had been very much eager to watch this film because I was planning to visit the refugee camps at Beldangi near Damak in Jhapa.

On October 18, I headed for Beldangi to hear and see the living conditions of the refugees. Dashain was in the air and the camp area was bustling with activities: people shopping, preparing goat meat for the feast. But, amid this festive air runs a deep division among refugees. It has an echo of Hamletian dilemma: to go to US or not. The American offer to resettle upto 6o thousand out of 1,06,000 refugees has triggered this dilemma. They are divided among those preferring third country settlement and who are opposed to it. Many refugees conceal their intention to go to US fearing the wrath of pro-repatriation activists.

I spoke to two camp secretaries, a leader of Bhutan People's Party and young refugees. I'm saving these nuggets for my upcoming story in Nepal Magazine.

Back in Kathmandu. Yesterday I attended an exhibition that showcased the creative works of refugee children at Nepal Art Council, Babarmahal. The turn up was very disappointing despite the significance of the program. The program consisted of simultaneous release of Voices in Exile, a photo-book featuring the images taken by refugee children, inauguration of website and an exhibition of photographs, artwork, handlooms and publications by refugee children.

Photovoice, a UK-based charity organization is the force behind this change. The motto stated by the organization, says: To enable those who are traditionally the subjects of photography to instead become its creator. Though this idea in itself is not new (I've participated in a couple of programs with this theme), it has definitely given voice to the voiceless refugee children. PhotoVoice aims to enable them to express their hopes and fears through photography, art and writing. It says: The project aimed to build confidence, increase skills and provide a platform for these young people to communicate to their community and international audiences their stories of growing up as refugees. Indeed, the young people are speaking their mind. I spoke one such Deo Maya Khadka, who was snapping the event. After being trained in photography, she now teaches the art to refugee kids. She has said in the book that the project has enabled her to fulfill her dream to become a photographer.

Link: Global Journalist on The Bhutan Reporter

1 comment:

salik said...

Looking forward to read your story...