Refugees share their struggles

Refugees and migrants taking care of guests at the Inside Out Pop-up Story Salon at Community House in Salt River.

Refugees and migrants shared their stories in Salt River to raise more awareness about the challenges they face.

World Refugee Day was on Thursday June 20, and refugees and migrants in Cape Town held the first Inside Out Pop-up Story Salon at Community House to mark the occasion.

Guests watched videos, which refugees had edited on their smartphones to tell their stories, and then gave feedback.

Temi Oduwole, from Nigeria, has been in South Africa since 2008, and said the salon had allowed for “robust discussions” with those who watched his video.

“Listening to their feedback afterwards was deep, rewarding and insightful,” he said.

Felix Nkotola, said he had felt relief sharing his story.

“I felt like I was getting the sufferings of my past experiences out of my heart, and I felt free.”

Mr Nkotola said he had left Malawi more than 12 years ago, fearing for his life.

He had then had to navigate the long queues at Home Affairs to apply for asylum.

Bibich Batubenga, who came to South Africa from the Republic of the Congo in 2004 with her husband, said she had struggled to get her permanent residency papers.

She has two children, aged 13 and 7, who were born in South Africa, though she still has problems trying to get them recognised as South Africans.

Nobukhosi Ngwenya visited the pop-up salon and said she had found the refugee stories inspirational.

“It is a story that resonates with all of us, whether we are home or travelled to another country. It is a search for home, a place where we belong and a place where we can be respected and live our lives to the fullest.”

Joanne Wheeler, from Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, co-ordinated the pop-up salon.

“The idea of the pop-up salon is to bring stories together from the migrant community in Cape Town. All the stories told here are by people who moved to Cape Town for different reasons, some of them are refugees and asylum seekers and others are South Africans that moved from one side of the country to the city,” she said.

The Adonis Musrati Project, a non-profit from Wynberg that helps refugees and migrants, helped to organise the event.

Its director, Gahlia Brogneri, said more than 60 people had booked a 30-minute appointment at the “salon” and watched videos made by refugees telling their stories of struggle and belonging.

Ms Brogneri said her organisation felt it important to pay tribute to the resilience and courage of refugees in Cape Town.

“To celebrate their cultures and traditions that they had to leave behind by hosting an event which showcases not only their powerful stories but also their dance, poetry, food, art and music,” she said.