Eric Ngalle Charles is a poet, storyteller and playwright and member of Welsh PEN. He runs writing classes at the Welsh Refugee Centre, Cardiff, where he has helped refugees to use writing to get over the trauma of being displaced. This workshop will provide an insight into Eric Ngalle's techniques and an opportunity to explore them.
Eric Ngalle's family were members of the English-speaking community in Cameroon, but political and economic power lay with the French speakers. Throughout his childhood, Eric had witnessed people’s rights and freedoms being restricted. By the time he went to university in Buea in 1996, he was writing political articles and supporting the Cameroon Anglephone Movement (CAM), one of the country’s major pressure groups. This lead to Eric spending three days in prison and, once he was free, he fled the country via neighbouring Nigeria and found himself on a plane to Russia.
That was the start of a terrifying two years in which, with no official right to be in the country, he fell prey to criminal gangs. It is the part of his life which most helps him aid other refugees who go through struggles to find safety. His arrival in the UK changed everything. After an appeal he was granted full refugee status and began to put down roots in his new home, Cardiff.
Eric Ngalle sees Wales – he arrived in 1999 and now has full citizenship – as the country of his rebirth. And now, he works hard in Wales to bring the stories of other refugees to life.
Like all struggles for new life, his is a mix of pleasure and pain. There is joy to be finally doing what he wants to do, writing poems and working on a book, but sadness at the distance between himself and his family.