‘Paper Memories’…talking to children about migration, memory and hope
“But do you know this idea of the imaginary homeland? Once you set out from shore on your little boat, once you embark, you'll never truly be at home again. What you've left behind exists only in memory, and your ideal place becomes some strange imaginary concoction of all you've left behind at every stop.”
Claire Messud, American Novelist
This passage by Claire Messud, evokes the images, and ideas that Mariem Omari held in her mind as she wrote ‘Paper Memories’, after being asked by Jabuti Theatre, to write a children’s play about migration and memory. She felt strongly that she did not want to shy away from both the loss and anticipation that can form the confusing emotions experienced when leaving your homeland. She thought about migration in all its forms – internally displaced people, refugees, asylum seekers, and people who, for one reason or another, chose to migrate to another country; like her mother who left Aberdeen on an adventure to Australia, that she never returned from. Her mother had a choice though, unlike the millions that have been forced to migrate because of circumstances beyond their control - with war being one of the most devastating. This turned her mind to the children of war, many of whom she encountered as refugees while working as an Aid Worker in the Middle East during the ‘Arab Revolutions’.
She wondered about this other world these children find themselves in, and how they connect the dots from ‘the before and the after’; how they have a way of keeping themselves ‘safe’ in the haven of their imaginations, and the memories they cherry pick from. And from this the story of Tali in ‘Paper Memories’ was born fully formed; the importance of her memories and how they informed her identity in the ‘new world’; and the need to fully experience those memories with her family who were there to bare witness. The story is driven by the ups and downs of Tali’s parents’ belief that they are keeping her safe by not letting her remember, until they come to the moment where her parents realise the importance of memories, whether happy or sad, leaving the audience with the message of how important it is not to shut children down, and through the making and remembering of memories, we create connection and hope.