He participated in a wide range of activities, both formal and informal, and was able to meet many people involved in Asia-related organizations including academic, educational, literary, artistic and diplomatic circles. Azhari also attended three Melbourne literary festivals, which coincided with his visit.
In Tasmania, Azhari presented three seminars on the campus of the University of Tasmania, as well as visiting and speaking with pupils at Queechy High School and Trevallyn Primary School in the north of the island. He also launched his new poetry broadsheet “Ibuku Bersayap Merah” [My Mother’s Red Wings] at the Republic Bar and Café in North Hobart, and read his poems, to an interested audience of local writers.
Azhari and his translator, Heather Curnow, visited Melbourne twice, from 12 – 14 August and 19 – 26 August. During these visits Azhari read his work twice [both poetry and short stories] at the Overload Poetry Festival and again at a second launch of his broadsheet, organized by Black Pepper Publishers. The Melbourne based organization Asia Link supported Azhari’s attendance at “In other Words”, a three-day Poetry in Translation Festival, where again he read his poems and met other writers and translators. Asia Link also facilitated a visit to Croydon Hills Primary School in Melbourne, and berni m janssen, of the Asia and Pacific Writers Network, an informal visit to the Footscray Community Arts Centre.
In spite of the challenges of the winter climate, culture and language, the visit was of enormous benefit to Azhari, both in terms of new contacts and new experiences in three cities [Hobart, Launceston and Melbourne] and two States [Tasmania and Victoria]. Azhari’s friendly personality and willingness to communicate with writers, students, academics, schoolteachers and others was an advantage. In addition, for many of the Australians he met, it was a valuable opportunity to meet and talk directly [often for the first time] with an Acehnese intellectual, cultural activist and writer.
All who heard Azhari reading his work, and who had the opportunity to ask questions about the situation in Aceh were touched by the experience. Among the most successful activities were undoubtedly the school visits in both Tasmania and Melbourne, and the opportunity for Azhari to attend events, meet other writers and experience the ambience of the Melbourne Age Writers Festival at the Malthouse – a large international literary festival which has been running for 20 years.
EXCHANGE OF LETTERS BETWEEN SCHOOLS
Letters of good will written to school children in refugee camps in Aceh by students at Trevallyn Primary School [Launceston] and Croydon Hills Primary School [Melbourne] will be taken to Aceh by Azhari. Responses from Acehnese children will be sent to the Australian schools. Paradox and Komunitas Tikar Pandan will seek financial support for a publication [with translations and illustrations] of the original texts from both Aceh and Australia. The book will be available to students in both Indonesia and Australia and hopefully will raise awareness of the effects of the tsunami in Aceh, as well as encouraging links / future visits between children and teachers of both communities.