Southern Cross News SA featured a story on Manal’s residency:
Upon arrival at Port Augusta, I was met with a warm welcome from the host of the Eco Motel, the place in which I would be staying for the week. We had some lovely conversation about east Africa and other parts of the world as he had worked internationally for many years before opening this motel. I unpacked my groceries and settled in before Tina, the Port Augusta Public Library manager picked me up and to show me around town. We drove to the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens to see the sculptures that were installed for the arid art festival. We then made our way to Flinders look out at the Red Banks and I was given a brief about the colonial history.
On my second day I met with Tina and Lisa, who have recently begun offering walking tours of the town. On our walking tour I learned a lot about Port Augusta since colonisation began. The stories of Matthew Flinders, the familiar tale about the quest to find the inland sea. It was enlightening, and walking across the entire town helped me to get my bearings. Later that day, I had an interview with Umeewarra, the local indigenous radio station and had an opportunity to share a poem. It’s much easier to get your voice heard in smaller towns. I had a few interviews throughout the week. My second interview was with ABC radio. I was having a chat with the journalist Shannon who was from Adelaide, and it turned out she went to the same high school that I did. We debated favourite teachers and had a lovely time. The third was with Southern Cross Media, also by a young motivated person straight out of Uni. It’s brilliant seeing the opportunities that exist outside of the big cities.
I spent a lot of time cruising through the library and doing some writing for my new collection of poetry as well as catching up on some admin. I also had a chance to catch up with the local singing group, Desert Voices. We had a wonderful time sharing songs, poems and stories and making plans for possible future collaborations. Another group I had a chance to meet with was Dusty Feet Mob, a young aboriginal dance group, and this was a beautiful experience to say the least. They moved to tell a story through their dance with an Archie Roach track playing in the background. Watching them dance, then sharing my poetry was like an interdisciplinary art collaboration, I felt that they spoke to me in their language and I spoke in mine and we understood each other without distortion of interpretation. It was a feeling. A connection. Later, I shared a poem with the aunties and the kids that was about reconnecting with my family, the air was so tense, many tears were being held back including my own. One sister asked me about writing about grief. She told me of how it is something continually experienced in her community but there is no way to speak about it, she felt that this, spoken word, might be a good outlet.
During this trip, I had many hours of wandering around the town, capturing textures and sounds on my camera and voice recorder. I had time to sit amongst elders, in their offices and homes learning about things that cannot adequately be represented in books. I had time to sit alone, to catch up on overdue work and to create new work. It was such a welcoming place, with many people that I met throughout the week making an appearance at the final event on Thursday night where we shared stories, laughter and tears. There was much talk about returning to facilitate workshops here and there, to take trips further out into the bush, to share books and to collaborate. The best part about the whole experience was that it felt like the beginning of something new.
The Writers and Readers in Residence Project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.