“Seeking asylum is by no means criminal”

Donnah Vuma speaks at the beginning of the 2017 Afri Famine Walk. Photo Derek Speirs

“I feel humbled and yet honoured to be here today.  I have found it a challenge to say a few words, I actually wanted to say no without giving this a thought, but remembered those that have walked this path before, the people that sacrificed their lives to seek relief for the masses of their village, they did not second guess themselves they took the challenge with swiftness, in the worst of weather and on empty stomachs with nothing but the will to survive.

Thank you to Action from Ireland (Afri) for finding a way of awakening the world at large, to spare time and resources to commemorate this event. In whatever part of the world we may be, we need to remember those that are treated with injustice and inequality for the sake of their political opinions, religion, race and gender. We also need to remember the thousands of families — including infants and the elderly fleeing war and violence in Syria who have to walk more than 1,400 miles to get to Serbia’s border with Hungary in hope of finding peace and a future. Above all, we need to remember those that sacrificed their lives fleeing on coffin ships or those who were condemned to workhouses during the great Irish Famine (An Gorta Mór). Continue reading ““Seeking asylum is by no means criminal””

Ten Days That Shook My World

Donal O’Kelly and Sorcha Fox performing extracts from “The Cambria” at Afri’s 2009 Famine Walk in Louisburgh, County Mayo

Earlier this year we – Benbo Productions, Sorcha Fox and Donal O’Kelly – were invited to take our show The Cambria to the Harare International Festival of the Arts (called HIFA) in Zimbabwe, with the support of Culture Ireland, and in the International American School in Lusaka, at the invitation of the Irish Embassy, Zambia. The tour was also supported by Afri.


Day 1:

Monday 30 April

We meet our technical manager Ronan Fingleton at Dublin Airport and we pool luggage to get the combined weight under the limit. Our luggage includes the backdrop, floorcloth, costumes and props for our show The Cambria, about US anti-slavery leader Frederick Douglass’s journey to Ireland in 1845 on the steamer Cambria. We fly on Emirates Airline direct to Dubai, arriving there late evening. In the windowseat, I witness an incredible electric storm over the eastern Mediterranean, and a gigantic oil flare-off in the Arabian desert. Luckily, Sorcha has found a way to get us accommodated for free in a Dubai hotel, because we have a 9-hour wait before flying on to Harare.


Day 2.

Tuesday 1 May

The flight to Harare has quite a few musicians on board, trying to fit their instrument cases into the overhead lockers. The vertical camera facility on the video screen shows amazing images of East Africa from 50,000 feet. The airport at Harare has a 1970s feel, queues forming for immigration booths with early 1990s computers. We queue up with our $55 entry fees, and get our passports stamped. A HIFA minibus is outside to take us all to the Rainbow Towers Hotel, formerly the Sheraton who pulled out of Zimbabwe a few years ago. We meet the HIFA people and they give us HIFA brochures. HIFA is an enormous festival, with bands and acts from all over the world taking part. The theme this year is “A Show Of Spirit”. We’re glad to bring a little of Frederick Douglass’s resilient spirit to Africa, the homeland his ancestors were forcibly torn from by the slave trade.

Continue reading “Ten Days That Shook My World”