Bukjeh at SAM: Beginning Refugee Week with the stories of Shepparton

 The SAM and Bukjeh team.

In Arabic, Bukjeh is the name for a small pack of belongings carried by travellers and refugees. These few objects paint an intimate portrait of their carrier, with each item holding memories and histories of places that were once home.

Led by artist and creator Aseel Tayah, Bukjeh at SAM will transport its audience on a journey through performances of music, dance, poetry and spoken-word depicting the stories of Bukjeh from the Shepparton community at Shepparton Art Museum on 18 June 2022.


Personal histories: Bukjeh creator Aseel Tayah. Photo by Caitlyn Grant
As the sun descended on the fourth level of Shepparton Art Museum on Saturday, glowing a golden orange, the crowd was still.

The stories of migrants and refugees who found a home in Shepparton reverberated through the space in the form of spoken word, dance, poetry and a universal connector — music.

In Arabic, ‘bukjeh’ refers to a small pack of belongings carried by travellers and refugees, often wrapped quickly when in haste to leave their homes.

The items provide an intimate portrait of their carrier, each item holding memories and histories of places that were once home.

Led by award-winning artist and creator Aseel Tayah, the interactive installation Bukjeh was held on the eve of Refugee Week on June 18.


Hitting home:
Hitting home: The audience is enthralled by the performers. Photo by Caitlyn Grant

It told stories of new and diverse communities across the district, many unravelled by the background of their bukjeh items, objects taken on pursuit of a new life.

Five families across the region were interviewed for the performance; one person’s story in particular resonated deeply with Mrs Tayah.

“The aunty that hadn’t seen her family in 10 years, I cried in that interview because there’s more than war and peace in there,” she said.

“There’s layers of pain and memories and mourning, and just some things that don’t exist anymore — their houses were taken, everything just disappeared.

“It was such a special space to be shared; to be hearing these stories I feel pretty privileged.”


Story teller
Story teller: Bukjeh musician Camille El Feghali speaks to the crowd. Photo by Caitlyn Grant

Created in 2018, the show aims to empower people who might feel uncertain in conversing about the reasons for and impacts of global migration for fear of saying the ‘wrong thing’ — humanising the experience of people that have been displaced.

It began as a one-day activation at the Melbourne Immigration Museum but has gone on to be presented across various towns and cities in Victoria.

SAM engagement manager and acting artistic director Gabriella Calandro said it was a “really beautiful expression of people we live and work with”.


Quiet reflection:
Quiet reflection: Bronaya Al-Jizani, 7, and Balsam Sahar enjoying the sunset after the performance. Photo by Caitlyn Grant

“Stories were gathered across several hours, so it was really a combination of things they missed from home, whether that be songs or smells or food,” she said.

“There’s this beautiful story of people missing what it’s like to have Ramadan and so they lose that joyous occasion — it was really beautiful to see that played out in music and song.”


 The SAM and Bukjeh team.
Connection: The SAM and Bukjeh team. Photo by Caitlyn Grant

Image Source

Translate »