Over the weekend of 28 – 29th June 2019, Citizen Songwriters partnered with performance artist Natasha Davis and ARC Stockton to produce ‘Welcome Town’, an art installation engaging members of the public around themes of welcome for those seeking protection from war and conflict.

Sam Slatcher from Citizen Songwriters brought together participants from a series of workshops he facilitated in Stockton over May and June 2019 to perform impromptu songs of welcome.

One of the songs documented the story of Bahkit, someone seeking sanctuary from the war in Sudan.

Speaking In My Mother Tongue

In my heart I say hello, can you hear me, I don’t know. Why would you? You don’t know me.
Winds were blow’n when I arrived, I didn’t want to go outside. I stayed at home for a week.
Suitcase in the corridor, someone is moving in next door. He’s asking me which language do I speak.
I told him in my mother tongue I told him just how far I’d come.
 He said “Oh you’re my brother” and he hugged me!

Hello, you’re smiling!
                                                                     Yes, I’m smiling!
                 Why are you smiling?
                                                                                                Because smiling is beautiful

Brother I look up to you, you saw the sun before I knew. You’ve walk these streets, you’ve heard it’s tune. You say to me, you have to seek all these opportunities. It could break you, you warned me.
You say that there’ll always be, a banquet for us all to eat. A cup of tea, the first thing when you rise.
You’re speaking in my mother tongue, you’ve been walking with me all along.
You said “Oh you’re my brother” with those kind eyes.

Speaking in my Mother Tongue is a song inspired by Bakhit’s story, including some of his own words. Bakhit who comes from Sudan, like many others seeking sanctuary from war, found himself alone in Stockton with no choice but to live in a shared house. To his surprise, his neighbour – also seeking sanctuary – greeted him in the same language (Arabic) despite coming from a different continent. His neighbour became a brother to him, someone he looks up to, to  help navigate through this unfamiliar new landscape. This is what ‘Welcome Town’ means for Bakhit.