My story: Eric Ngalle Charles

Eric Ngalle Charles, a poet, author, playwright and Cameroonian refugee now living in Wales. Eric’s journey in search of refuge took him from Cameroon to Russia and finally to Wales.

How did you first get into the arts, and what sort of work do you do?

When I first arrived in Wales all those years ago, I realised that all I had was my memory. A lot of people wanted to talk on my behalf. Yet, no one was interested in my story. They wanted my voice to be lost in a chorus. I was invited to a conference in Llandudno in 2001 by Academi – Literature Wales, on Literature and Trauma. Until then, I would not have contemplated putting those two words together. Literature and trauma. After the conference as we drove from Llandudno to Abertawe, I wrote my very first poem, which became the title of my very first poetry anthology published by Hafan books in the summer of 2003. Extract below.

‘’On a wet journey to Llandudno
Washing away pin and longing
a reborn voice crying
between a mountain and a sea
where voices echoed across horizons
and conversations on common things
Wake me from my slumber
this poem will be over
that for my homecoming
Between a mountain and a sea.’’

How is the association between the arts and mental health relevant to you?

Extremely relevant. Creative writing, more importantly poetry, gave me back my voice. It gave me back my name and my identity. Remember, by the time I reached Wales even though I was only 21, I was traveling as a sixty-two year old Zimbabwean from Bulawayo.
Through the arts, I finally recognised who I was. This took me many years to do. And to be honest I am still doing it. Most often, at night, I do not sleep. When at night I close my eyes, I follow the rains of my dreams back to the perfect landscape I once called home. Only to realise that no one recognises me even the village goats and dogs.



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