© Kev Ryan
Ambrose Musiyiwa is a journalist and freelance writer based in Leicester. Born in Zimbabwe, he grew up in Chitungwiza, near Harare, where he trained as a teacher and taught in primary and secondary schools. He graduated with a Law degree from De Montfort University. He facilitates a blog called Conversations With Writers, for which he interviews and profiles writers, publishers and literary activists. He also facilitates CivicLeicester, a community media channel that covers the wide range of exciting activities and events taking place in and around Leicester but which do not normally make it into the news.
His short stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines as well as in an anthology of contemporary Zimbabwean writing called Writing Now (Weaver Press, 2005) and Writing Free (Weaver Press, 2011). Ambrose is author of Diary of An Asylum Seeker, a novel that explores the experience of being a newcomer. The novel is featured on BBC Leicester's website. Excerpts of the novel were commended in the 2005 Leicester and Leicestershire Library Services Annual Short Story Contest.
From Diary of an Asylum Seeker
April 6th, ____
Last night I moved into a derelict house in an estate about half an hour’s walk from the city centre. All the windows are boarded up except for the bedrooms upstairs. The house has no electricity, no heating and no running water.
I didn't sleep. I had to keep pacing up and down to keep warm. This afternoon some sun filtered through the bedroom window. I wrapped myself up in a blanket and got a few hours’ sleep.
April 8th, ____
This morning I washed my face in a sink at the public toilets, where I also get my drinking water. I found a plastic three-litre container in one of the bins in my street. It said “Robinsons Orange Fruit Squash” on the label. I cleaned it out so I could store drinking water in it.
For the first few days after I moved into this house I went through the bins looking for something to eat. There's a large corner-shop a few meters away and now the Asian man who owns it lets me have a loaf of bread every evening.
April 13th, ____
This afternoon I dreamt that immigration officers came for me. I climbed out of the first floor window onto the roof to get away from them. They called the fire brigade to get me down. I took a hundred painkillers and injected myself with pesticides before they could get at me.
April 21st, ____
For the past week I've been sleeping under bridges and in phone booths. Anywhere dry. One of those nights I slept in an abandoned building.
I left the house a week ago. I had to get away; I can't sleep in the same place twice. I'd been living out of a suitcase. The suitcase was getting heavy. Today I decided to abandon it. There's nothing in it that I cannot live without.
I started working on the Diary of an Asylum Seeker in late 2004 or early 2005 after visiting the Assist Service, a medical practice in Leicester which provides asylum seekers with specialist primary health care services. The practice therapist suggested I keep a diary, which I did for a week or so.
Soon after that I started writing articles for newspapers, magazines and journals. The articles invariably focused on asylum seekers: who they are, why they are forced to leave home and country, where they end up claiming asylum and the reception they receive. I wanted to explore this experience outside the realm of news in novel form and so the Diary of an Asylum Seeker was born.
So far as I am aware, there are no other novels about the experiences of asylum seekers in diary form, Nevertheless, there are many works that shed light on the traumatic experiences that force asylum seekers to leave home and country or which explore the trauma that the process of claiming asylum can itself induce. Prominent examples are the highly original and influential play, The Bogus Woman (2000) by Kay Adshead as well as the novels, Refugee Boy (2001) by Benjamin Zephaniah as well as Harare North (2010) by Brian Chikwava.
Even though it is still a work in progress, the Diary has been well received. It was commended in the 2005 Leicester and Leicestershire Library Services Annual Short Story Contest. A year later, a slightly longer draft of the Diary was published in Glimpse, the Glimpse Foundation’s quarterly magazine while, in 2007, "Three Dreams", an extract from theDiary was featured in Tripod: The magazine for new writing from the Literature Network.
The Diary aims to stay as true to its subject as possible without being preachy. Like the rest of the story, the excerpt I have chosen focuses on the experiences documented by the unnamed narrator after his application for political asylum has been refused.
Danfo Driver, Writing Free, Weaver Press, Harare, 2011
The Bracelet, Conversations with Writers, February 17, 2010: Click here to read online.
Two Dreams, Tripod: The magazine for new writing from the Literature Network, Issue 2, Summer 2007
Living on Promises and Credit, Writing Now, Weaver Press, Harare, 2005
Diary of an Asylum Seeker [A work in progress]: Click here to read online.
Building Bridges: Interview with Gill Buttery, World Press Review, September 14, 2010: Click here to read online.
Exposing Rhodesia, Ohmy News International, November 6, 2008: Click here to read online.
An Abhorrent Form of Censorship, World Press Review, July 29, 2008: Click here to read online.
Doris Lessing: Nobel Prize Laureate, Ohmy News International, October 14, 2007: Click here to read online.
Saddam Hussein's Execution is a War Crime, World Press Review, December 31, 2006: Click here to read online.
Contact & Links
Conversations with Writers: http://conversationswithwriters.blogspot.com/