Showcasing emerging African-Australian writers: Rafeif Ismail and Flora Chol
Creative writing is a medium through which complex ideas about culture, identity and resistance can be communicated. More and more we are seeing people turning to stories from minority groups, who aren’t usually the subjects of mainstream literature. Through this process, readers are able to grow their understanding and appreciation of communities different to their own.
Today we’re showcasing two emerging African-Australian writers: Rafeif Ismail and Flora Chol, both of whom use their writing to honour their heritage and to explore their African identities.
Rafeif Ismail is an award-winning emerging Sudanese writer and creator based in Western Australia. Her work explores themes of culture, belonging and what it means to be Australian in the 21st century.
Over the last three years, Rafeif’s short stories have been published in three anthologies: Ways of Being Here, Meet Me at the Intersection and Growing Up African in Australia. In addition, she is co-director of Djed Press – an online publication showcasing stories from people of colour.
Rafeif’s multidisciplinary practice – which has also seen her involved in music and theatre production – is heavily inspired by her Sudanese heritage.
“Sudan is a nation of multiple languages and cultures, and it’s an absolute privilege that I have the chance to learn and honour my heritage. My Sudanese culture is centred on storytelling. It has absolutely inspired every part of my work,” she explained.
Furthermore, Rafeif often combines Sudanese Arabic into her writing.
“My first major project was to try and transcribe the stories of my childhood into English, that had its own challenges but it was really rewarding.”
Rafeif is a firm believer in the link between arts and activism, and the importance of representing diverse experiences in order to change dominant power structures.
We live in a society that is full of people from all walks of life, and all those stories should be showcased. The modern literary canon shouldn’t just be white writers and white characters.
Flora Chol is an emerging South Sudanese writer based in Victoria. Last year, she published her debut book Tomorrow’s Dream – an anthology of poetry which explores themes of race, gender and blackness.
Flora explains the overarching metaphor of her book, “[It] encapsulates blackness as a vessel of revolt, because I think to be a black person in any given society, just by your existence itself, you’re already doing a courageous act of survival.”
Since Flora chose to self-publish Tomorrow’s Dream, she was granted full creative control over her work. The most rewarding aspect of the journey was learning all about the writing and publishing process from an independent perspective.
In addition to writing, Flora is a passionate activist. Her writing, which centres around socio-political issues in Africa, certainly reflects this.
I’m a major pan-Africanist. So a lot of my activism is basically around black rights. Trying to overcome any neo-colonial regimes and looking at things from the perspective of wanting a free, self-reliant, self-sufficient Africa.
In the future, Flora hopes to write children’s books, and also plans on collaborating on an academic text for primary and high-school students.