Now We Are Here | Michael

Now We Are Here, part or our Horizons season of work, features four true refugees stories which are drawn together into a heartbreaking tale of the pursuit of freedom. Taking Part at the Young Vic presents this extraordinarily beautiful new play.
We spoke to the people who were originally involved in our first workshops about where they are from and why they decided to get involved in this important project.

Michael, YV TP LGBT Refugee Workshop Portrait

Michael, a participant in the original workshop, originally from Burundi.

Q. How old are you?
A. Well, that’s a very tough question because in Africa we never ask about age…being a person who has never celebrated their birthday or anything like that, makes it very tricky. But as far as I can remember, maybe 1972 – so I’m getting to 43/44.

Q. Where are you from?
A. Burundi. But it’s all about East Africa for me because my mother’s origins are in Uganda and her grandmother is from Tanzania, so I’m all East African.

Q. How are you finding it in the UK?
A. Well, I would say safety is the only thing I can mention. It’s safe. It’s so challenging – I’ve been here 13 years. I fled my country because of the political and tribal tensions in Burundi – 2000 /2001. Having been imprisoned, free, then to Tanzania. Having to leave without the freedom…having been believed by the home office…having to be destitute…with no permission to work and having no representation. I mean, it’s all denial. It makes me doubt where there is freedom or where there is justice. Sometimes you find that you are not regarded as a human being. I have to avoid all the papers that talk about me so I feel dehumanised. I feel like, all the time, I have to prove who I am, where I am from – it’s a very dehumanising process.

Q. How have you found doing this workshop / what do you take away from it?
A. Workshops like this are a gamble. I was referred and I just came in for a chat because I’m not allowed to work…I’m not allowed to go to school. I just came in and I met Imogen and Ian and it was very interactive. In my opinion it was more like counselling – I started talking about my like and I never thought it would be something that people would be interested in; my kind of ordinary life which I think is very horrible, very un-entertaining. For a day like to where were have merged with different people, different feeling to come up with something that friends…people…can come and relate to makes me a human being like anybody else.

Now We Are Here will run 20-30 July in The Clare at the Young Vic. Tickets are free and all donations will go to Micro Rainbow International and Room to Heal.

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