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Auckland to Host International Conference on Exile


Auckland to Host International Conference on Exile

Exile may separate people from their homeland, but now Auckland is set to bring the exiled together - by hosting an international conference of respected scholars, poets and creative artists to discuss the concept and experience of exile in detail.

The conference, 'The Poetics of Exile', will be hosted by The University of Auckland and held in Auckland on 17-19 July 2003.

Conference coordinator and Associate Professor of the Centre for Comparative Literature at The University of Auckland Mike Hanne says because people have sought, or been forced into, exile in most cultures and every period of recorded history, the conference has attracted extraordinary interest from every part of the world.

"Around 200 speakers from over thirty countries from India to Argentina, Israel to Indonesia, China to the Czech Republic, Nigeria to Sweden, Palestine to the United States will be participating," he says.

He says while the nature and circumstances of exile have varied from one case to another, the sense of "loss of something left behind" is common to all.

"At a time in which the dispossession of indigenous peoples and the right to migrate and seek asylum are continually contested, it seems particularly appropriate to explore the intimate connection between exile and creativity in different periods and political and cultural contexts," he says.

Contributors will come from fields as diverse as classical literature, indigenous and postcolonial writing, performance and film studies, trauma and refugee studies, and ethnic and women's studies. Topics featured at the conference will also include exile as it relates to censorship, insanity and loss of homeland and tradition.

Another special features of the conference will be the involvement of a number of writers and creative artists such as painters, musicians, filmmakers and photographers from around the world who have themselves experienced exile.

Among the internationally known writers contributing to the conference are: Argentinean poet and novelist Alicia Borinsky, who left her country after a military coup in 1966; Chinese poet Yang Lian, who sought refuge in New Zealand after the Tiananmen Square in 1989, then moved on to London; Nigerian poet Chris Abani, now living in the U.S.; Czech poet and academic Bronislava Volkova, who left Czechoslovakia in 1974; Nigerian poet Chris Abani; Iraqi-born poet and novelist Saadi Simawe.

Writers and creative artists who sought refuge in New Zealand under extreme circumstances and who are taking part in the conference include: eminent Jewish photographer Marti Friedlander, who came to New Zealand from war- and Holocaust-ravaged Europe in 1958, young Bulgarian-born poet Kapka Kassabova, Ethiopian-born poet and activist on behalf of refugees Yilma Tafere Tasew, and many others.

Associate Professor Hanne says the conference organisers are grateful to Auckland City Council and Waitakere City Council for funding provided through the Creative NZ Creative Communities project, which will enable a small number of writers, musicians, dancers and other creative artists from refugee and exiled communities living in Auckland to participate.

"Auckland is the logical place to hold this conference, because we have our own diverse population which has been formed to an extent from the many people and groups who have been exiled from their own countries - like the Tampa refugees, for example."

He says the conference is still looking for people to apply to be contributors under this category, with the only pre-requisite that they must be residents of either Auckland or Waitakere Cities.

The three-day conference is open to the public and costs $225 with a reduced rate for students of $150. Special rates will be available for those who want to attend the conference for only one or two days.


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