The Migrant Worker Poetry Contest Organizing Committee comprises of a group of volunteers: Shivaji Das, Vishal Daryanomel, Gopika Jadeja, Noreen, Ting Mak Yu, Rolinda Onates Espanola, Ohim Rohimah, Yolanda Yu, AKM Mohsin, and Abhineet Kaul.

© 2019 by Abhineet Kaul

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Poetry in motion: Migrant workers pen thoughts on life away from home

14 December 2015

 

SINGAPORE: To be a beacon of light leading his family out of darkness: That was what construction worker Mohar Khan wrote about for his poem, which bagged him the second prize in the second edition of the Migrant Worker Poetry Competition on Sunday (Dec 13).

 

“My poem is a metaphor for providing light for my family. With the work as a construction worker here, I am able to support my family back home,” Mr Khan said of his poem titled Lamp Post.

As the runner-up, he received S$300 as a prize. The Bangladeshi spends all his free time and energy on writing, which, he said, is an escape from the grind of his day-to-day work.

Mr Zakir Hossain Khokon won first prize for the second consecutive time. His poem was about migrant life, and how he misses his wife and children.

 

Ms Sharasyamsi Yahya from Indonesia, who won the third prize, said her poem entitled You is dedicated to someone who is very supportive of her dreams and ambitions to achieve success.

She has been in Singapore as a domestic worker for nine years and has dreams to go back to her country to start a business.

 

The competition saw submissions almost triple from last year, with 14 finalists emerging from 74 submissions. The participants, who included domestic workers, construction workers and technicians, came from countries such as China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh and had 65 per cent of submissions from women.

 

Organised by the Banglar Kantha, a newspaper for the Bangladeshi community in Singapore, the event was held at the National Library. It was supported by The Literary Centre, American Embassy, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and information, Aidha, H.O.M.E. and Transient Workers Count Too.

Construction worker, foreign domestic worker among winners at migrant poetry competition

17 December 2014

 

SINGAPORE — To be a beacon of light leading his family out of darkness: That was what construction worker Mohar Khan wrote about for his poem, which bagged him the second prize in the second edition of the Migrant Worker Poetry Competition yesterday.

 

“My poem is a metaphor for providing light for my family. With the work as a construction worker here, I am able to support my family back home,” Mr Khan said of his poem titled Lamp Post.

As the runner-up, he received S$300 as a prize. Mr Khan spends all his free time and energy on writing, which, he said, is an escape from the grind of his day-to-day work.

Construction supervisor reminisces life back home through poetry

14 December 2014

 

While 38-year-old Zakir Hossain Khokon, a Bangladeshi construction supervisor who arrived in Singapore in 2003, battles the social exclusion he faces as a migrant worker, he also channels his thoughts on how he misses his family back home in Dhaka through poetry.

 

His poem, written in his native language of Bengali, talks of how he draws a portrait of the people he’s missing and hangs it on the wall. “Then I talk to the audience: ‘Hey, I’m sorry because I put this portrait on the wall.’ Then I explained what is in there. At the end of the poem, I say I am sorry. Then, I take down my portrait.”

 

Zakir’s heart-rending poem-painting won him the first prize in the Migrant Worker Poetry Competition 2015 on Sunday night (13 Dec) at the National Library. He also came out tops in the same competition last year.

 

Titled ‘I am sorry’, his winning poem conveys migrant angst through a painting with words. He tells Yahoo Singapore he draws the feelings of the ‘migrant worker’ on the portrait and explains it with the poem.

Talent galore at the Migrant Worker Poetry Competition

14 December 2014

 

Two Bangladeshi migrant workers and an Indonesian domestic worker nabbed the top three prizes at the finals of the Migrant Worker Poetry Competition held at the National Library on Sunday.

 

38-year-old Zakir Hossain Khokon won the top spot, an honour he had also received in 2014 at the inaugural Migrant Worker Poetry Competition. His poem, entitled “I am sorry”, dealt with the often-invisible emotions of a migrant worker leaving his home and his family to work in a foreign land.

 

Themes of isolation and longing emerged in several of the 14 poems recited by the finalists. Runner-up Mohor Khan’s poem “Lamp Post” dealt with the pain of being distant from his family in Bangladesh while working on construction sites in Singapore.

 

“Day after day I labour / Layers of this city are infused / With the salty smell of my sweat,” he recited in Bengali to a packed room, going on to lament the opportunity to witness his son’s childhood years.

The third prize went to Sharasyamsi Yahya, who wowed the room with a powerful performance of her poem “You” in Bahasa Indonesia.

 

“I saw online that they allowed us to submit in any language so I wrote down what came to my mind about a person who has been very supportive of me,” she told TOC of her poem at the end of the night.

The loud and proud voices of migrant workers

14 December 2014

 

THE recently concluded Migrant Poetry Competition has been roundly applauded for giving Singapore’s literary labourers a platform to express themselves. But at the finals of the competition yesterday, held at the National Library, perhaps more so than the verses they penned, it was their voices that surprised most of the 200-strong audience who attended the event.

 

Each of the 14 shortlisted poets who recited their work on stage spoke with passion and conviction. From Mr Shromik Monir, who recited his poem ‘Worker’ in Bengali to the audience with an intense glare, an upright stance and a valiant delivery of words, to Ms Sharasyamsi Yahya, who recited her poem ‘You’ in a crisp voice that pierced the cold air of the room expressively and uplifted the entire audience, the poets did justice to the words on paper by breathing life into them with their distinct voices.

Singapore’s migrant worker poets

2 December 2014

 

On 13 December 2015, the 14 shortlisted finalists of Singapore’s second Migrant Worker Poetry Competition 2015 will read their poems in 7 languages at the National Library.

 

In Singapore, many blue-collar migrant workers still face discrimination and lack of integration with the local community — but for the past 2 years, a poetry competition has been steadily breaking new ground.

 

Last year, Singapore’s inaugural Migrant Worker Poetry Competition was organised by TWC2 volunteer Shivaji Das and AKM Mohsin from Banglar Kantha, a newspaper for the Bangladeshi community.

 

The competition started small, only accepting submissions from Tamil- and Bengali-speaking migrant workers here; nevertheless, that garnered both local and international media attention, including reports from The Jakarta Globe and Qatar Tribune.

 

From a shortlist of 10 poems, judges Alvin Pang, Kirpal Singh and Shobina Suja awarded the top three prizes to Zakir Hussain Khokhon’s “Pocket 2”, Rajib Shil Jibon’s “Shades Of Light And Dark” and N Rengarajan’s “Lessons From Circumstances”.

Migrant workers to share poetry

12 December 2014

 

When construction supervisor Zakir Hossain Khokon won the inaugural Migrant Worker Poetry Competition last year with a poem about his grief at leaving his wife in Bangladesh, the attention took him by surprise.

 

Bloggers and international media asked for interviews. Dance company Chowk set his words to movement in its show From Another Land at the Esplanade in September. And just last month, TEDxSingapore invited him to be a speaker at its event.

 

This year, the 37-year-old joined the competition for the second time and made it to the finals.

 

He will be among 14 finalists reading their entries at the National Library tomorrow.

Recited in native languages, including Bahasa Indonesia, Mandarin, Tagalog, Bengali, Tamil and Punjabi, the poems are written by foreign workers in different professions, such as domestic helpers, construction workers and nurses.

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