Year Six of be:longing – Growth and exploration

And just like that, the end of another year is upon us!  

2022 was be:longing’s sixth year of operation and it brought us a true host of wonders, both new and old.  In terms of our online publications, we were honoured to bring a further 30 original pieces to you all, each of which explored the vast complexity, myriad perspectives and never-ending inspiration of cross-cultural life in their own ways.  (You can read more about them all below.)  As for our events, we hosted two fantastic live poetry and story events in our hometown of Canberra (one in collaboration with our dear friends at MotherTongue Multilingual Poetry), and were thrilled to be able to see some of our contributors and audience face-to-face again!  It was fantastic to engage with the multicultural creative community in our part of the world after two years of COVID restrictions, and we look forward to continuing to do so in 2023.  (Read on to the end of this piece to find out where you’ll be able to come and meet us in person early next year.  We’re excited about a stall we’ll be hosting at a certain National Multicultural Festival in our hometown early in the new year… 🙂)

One of the newer wonders this year brought us was an honour that was both unexpected and deeply encouraging.  After being nominated by a couple of our local contributors, we were awarded the Australian Capital Territory’s 2022 Multicultural Art, Media or Culture Award, and collected the accolade at a beautiful awards ceremony in July.  It was wonderful to be recognised for our efforts over the past six years and to have our contributions as a cross-cultural organisation appreciated in such a formal way, and it was extra special to do so at a forum where we had the opportunity to meet other multicultural individuals making a difference in the community!  

While winning the award brought great honour to us as an organisation (and opened the door to allow us to meet with local politicians and other eminent individuals in the ACT), it didn’t distract us from our core goal and focus of bringing cross-cultural stories out into the world, and promoting the art, writing, poetry, cultural practices and passions of cross-cultural individuals as far and widely as possible.  With a renewed sense of energy, we are proud to have connected with dozens of new contributors over the year, and we are proud to have brought their works into the public domain at this very magazine!

Our pieces this year

In our pieces this year, our contributors showed again that a cross-cultural life has many joys.  It enriches our lives through meetings of languages and the sharing of precious, unique familial spaces, as sung in Raíces (Roots) from ‘Aquí en el medio’ (‘Here in the middle’).  It allows us to take hold of the many opportunities for connection in moments and gestures exchanged in the places we find ourselves, as we read in Music to me and A smile from Homs.  In When snow in Belgrade… smells of childhood, we also learned how cross-cultural life can give us a warm refuge to recall seasons lived through and memories that stay in our bones and hearts, ready to be called on from wherever we have made new homes. 

Our contributors also demonstrated, though, that a key driver of migration is conflict.  Conflict turning to war, with the arrival of soldiers and the displacement of civilians, was the focus of A story about tragedy, while in The Flow of Flow, we saw how families might push someone to leave so that they might make their way out of a cycle of intergenerational trauma.  An extract from Abacus of Loss – A Memoir in Verse explored the search for freedom and the acceptance of a multifaceted identity through expanded horizons, at the cost of separation from a family unwilling to accept departures from religious traditions.  State impositions on freedom were at the centre of our Interview with Nastaran Mazloumi, where family, homeland art and architecture were havens, and where the necessity for migration meant accessing those havens thereafter, painfully, only from a distance.       

The pieces we published this year also showed us how language is intricately involved in the creation and maintenance of a cross-cultural identity, and how losing touch with a language can mean losing touch with its culture.  In Twi Phone-ology, hearing a parent speak their mother tongue allowed the listener – a child – to access their ancestry, while in The new toilet, a child came to realise how their main source of language is their parents – and that those parents aren’t always the most consistent of teachers.  In Funny accents and pickles, an adult reflected cogently on how the language they have spoken with their parents all their lives is deeply influenced by its peoples’ travels around the world, and may disappear for him in a way once his parents are gone.  In 0, we were reminded of the deeply political nature of language being passed on by colonial occupiers, and of the confronting ways that imperial language can continue to challenge its would-be subjects years after the end of colonial rule.

We learned more of the daily implications of the cross-cultural experience through our pieces, too: whether it means a questioning of place in each moment or a questioning of reality – or potential realities – as we make the decisions that take us through our lives, as we read in A casual kind of violence; or whether it informs the values we rely on in tough moments, as we read in The Journey from Life to Death.  It can imbue us with strength, where we are fortified by our personal histories and a home we can carry with us, as described in Facades and Other Baggage.  Or it could teach us to play the careful observer – to decide when to participate or not – as we read in On a day like this, which wondered about our place at the margins, or sometimes in the centre as tokens.  This sense of deep-seated dislocation, or outsider status, played out further in Dust and clay, where the passing of decades was still no consolation in the face of the reality of a burial outside the homeland where one seemed, really, to belong.    

For some, migration is a lifelong meditation.  In Abraham’s Children, we read how migration and reflection at a distance hold opportunities to understand complex national and familial histories. In parts 1 and 2 of this long-form migration piece, we read how changing ethnic and cultural landscapes, over tens of thousands of years, have produced lives intricately woven with so many histories.  Continuing our Interview with Anna Koestenbauer, we heard of the impact of multiple migrations on a job search, on finding a place within different societies, and on the development of identity.   

While migration can lead to the exploration of histories and personalities old and new, it can also cause pain and suffering – sometimes directly; sometimes catching its victims by surprise.  Being asked “where are you from?” can seem like an innocuous query to some, but over time it can feel like a biting accusation for the recipient, as we saw in Ka ïing / home.  In Posters and puzzles, we saw how a reminder of times past and a future lost can creep up on us, turning an otherwise ordinary evening achingly emotional, while Dickson showed how migrating can be incredibly confusing – we can feel embraced and yet not embrace our new surroundings, instead reaching back to our faraway homes and yearning for their smells, sights and sounds.  Finally, memories of navigating early migrant experiences can stick around for years, even when not experienced personally, as we saw in Translating Terror Australis.

Looking at cross-cultural life in a different way, some of our pieces explored how the difficulties inherent to life within a minority can be amplified when we have to grapple with assumptions made about cross-cultural people.  You could sell that critiqued the motives behind the granting of space and virtue to cross-cultural people, while An Introvert Spoke, So To Speak played with the balance between autonomy and managing an image that might impact fellow migrants.  These pieces raised questions about constraints to personal choice where stereotypes are rife and where the balance of power is tipped out of a migrant’s favour.  Triple Migration expanded on these ideas, challenging the notion of a migrant as belonging to a homogenous mass, explaining the internal swell of unique thoughts, emotions and burdens that make up a migrant’s vivid, individuated journey.      

Finally, seeking to bring you, our global audience, into our lives and the way we experienced cross-cultural life in Canberra, Australia, this year, we brought you two pieces that took you on a tour of a couple of events we either attended or hosted.  First was ‘Creating Space’ – An exhibition of migrant women’s art.  Organised by the Migrant Women’s Art Group – which is run by our very own dear Arts Editor, Kirandeep Grewal – we attended the opening of this marvellous exhibition at the beginning of the year, and were inspired by the multimedia art on display, not to mention the artists we met and connected with.  The other was our very own Multilingual Poetry Evening, held at Smith’s Alternative in the city and featuring the multilingual recitals of almost a dozen contributors, whose work we previously or subsequently published right here on be:longing.  We hope you enjoyed the photos from both of these events.

And there you have it!  30 original pieces, each exploring the experiences, emotions, reactions, reflections, thoughts, opinions and wonderings of cross-cultural individuals.  How special it is to be able to help bring these stories to the world; how wonderful to be trusted by you with the task of handling them with care and publishing them for others to read!  We hope you, our dear contributors and readers, will take this opportunity to go and read the above pieces if you haven’t already – or re-read them if you have (they’re worth it!) – and that you’ll stay with us into 2023 and beyond.

On that note, thank you to each and every one of our contributors, readers, interlocutors, friends, family members, audience members, event attendees, social media followers and – last but ABSOLUTELY not least – our 2022 be:longing Editorial Team members, Vesna, Kiran and Narmadhaa (who we hope will ring in 2023 with us!), for bringing us endless inspiration and joy in the conversations and tales we have shared with you all.  Each of you makes be:longing what it is on a continuous basis, and without people such as yourselves who write, read and appreciate the stories and experiences of cross-cultural individuals, be:longing would have no place in the world at all.

Where to next

Looking ahead to 2023, we are really excited for what’s to come.

First things first!  If you’d like to come and meet us and learn more about be:longing – or just say hello! – come along to the National Multicultural Festival in Canberra, where we’ll be hosting a be:longing stall on Sunday 19 February 2023!  Stay tuned to our socials (Facebook and Instagram) to find out exactly where you’ll be able to find us and what we’ll have on offer, but we’re really looking forward to the day and can already let you know that we’ll have some fun activities, workshops and displays to entice you all…

After that, we’ll be heading right into our new publishing rhythm with a whole set of new pieces for you to enjoy, from art and photography to music, recipes, poetry, short stories, memoir and more.  Our publication slots are already starting to fill up, so if you’d like to contribute part of your cross-cultural, migrant, refugee or multicultural story to our collection, hit us up!  We are always keen to hear from new or existing contributors, and would love to support you in telling your story.  Whether you’ve got a piece hiding in a notebook or on your computer somewhere, have an idea that has been scratching around in your head for a while, or know of someone who practices in this area and might like to know about be:longing or get involved, please get in touch!  We’d love to hear from you.

Well, that’s all from us for 2022.  As of tomorrow, we head into our annual Summer Publishing Break until the start of February.  Until we come back online, we wish you all a happy holiday season, a healthy and restful break, a tremendous new year and all the best for 2023!

All our love,
Dunja and Jasmine
Chief Editors
be:longing online magazine

Featured image: © Dušica Milutinović, 2021