Domestic worker’s after-work reading group

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Hong Kong is home to more than 320,000 migrant domestic workers: 49.4 percent are from Indonesia, 48 percent are from Philippines and the others are mainly from Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Although this large minority group makes up four percent of Hong Kong’s population, migrant domestic workers, their legal rights, society status and personal needs are often absent from local narratives.

According to a 2013 report by Amnesty International, migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong are at high risk of seeing their human and labour rights violated.

Hoping to make a difference is Para Site, a contemporary art centre in Quarry Bay that has been collaborating with domestic workers and grassroots cultural organisations to produce a multifaceted platform of programmes, spanning photography, art, education and literature.

The latter art form saw the creation of the “Afterwork Reading Club” – an ongoing cultural project that brings the writing of domestic workers to their peers and the wider community.

Qinyi Lim from Para Site and Brigitta Isabella from Indonesia’s KUNCI Cultural Studies, who teamed up to spearhead the reading/writing initiative. Read more

Full programme of the afterwork reading group :
Session I: Process
2 August, 1pm, Victoria Park
Nh. Dini, Naluri yang Mendasari Penciptaan and Indira Margareta, Cahaya untuk Penaku

This session looks at the figure of the writer and the definition behind the classification of literature in contrast to everyday journaling and communication via social media. How does literature’s function compare to that of other forms of writing? Using texts of Nh. Dini and Indira Margareta, an Indonesian migrant worker in Hong Kong, this session serves as an introduction to the methodology guiding the reading group.

Session II: Work
9 August, 10 am, Private home, Tai Wai New Village
Umar Kayam, Lebaran Ini, Saya Harus Pulang and Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Sarman

What is the meaning of work? Why must one work? How does one put work into their writing? Nem, the main character in Umar Kayam’s short story, spent half of her life working as a loyal housemaid. Sarman, a male character in Seno Gumira Ajidarma’s short story also worked at his office job for 10 consecutive years. This session questions whether time moves in a linear fashion or endlessly repeats itself. Can time leave us behind, or can we escape the repetition of time? What does time mean for us who work endlessly, who impatiently wait for time to pass—the sooner, the better—hoping our shift ends as fast as it can? Do we live to work, or work to live? Is writing a form of work? Can a writer document the flow of time and control the medium of time?

Session III: Event
15 August, 1pm, Para Site Residency Apartment, Sheung Wan
Hanna Fransisca, Kawan Tidur

What is considered news in the mass media today? A riot takes place in Tolikara. A lawyer is arrested before celebration of Eid. A band called Duo Serigala releases their new song. The US dollar gets stronger. President Jokowi meets the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. A 10-year-old child dies in Nepal. A relentless drought hits Bekasi. A female reporter is murdered by some robbers. Twelve people, riding their motorbikes, on their way to their own respective hometowns, are killed on the road. Deddy Corbouzier is ready to have a serious relationship again. A cop gets beaten at Gambir’s train station. News flows in every day. Events come and go. How do the eyes and ears of a writer capture and represent the events around them? How does one differentiate between the important and the non-important elements? By reading this play by Hanna Fransisca, the group will talk about how a writer confronts her own personal perspectives with the unfolding of random events around her.

Session IV: Language
30 August, 2:30pm, Para Site
Afrizal Malna, xezok ker lubigjob kurlesok

There are languages that are familiar to us. There are languages that make us feel foreign. Can we conquer this feeling of foreignness by conquering a particular language? Is there a universal language that can be understood by everyone? What is a “difficult text” and how does one create meaning from “the unreadable”? Taking Afrizal Malna’s short story based on his experience of being lost in translation in Berlin, this discussion will serve as a means to destabilize familiarity of one’s mother tongue and identity through language.

Session V: Room
13 September, 2:30 pm, Private Home
Lily Yulianti Farid, The Kitchen and Sapardi Djoko Damono, Layout

Walking from room to room, morning after morning, we try to organize the thoughts in our mind through temporary mental architectures. More than anything, these daily morning rituals are perhaps the most fundamental way of surviving in the everyday. This session deals with the ideas of private and public spaces and reflects on what can be learnt about these sites of domesticity.

Session VI: Conclusion
27 September, 1 pm, Victoria Park
Arista Devi, Purple Testimony and Budi Darma, The M Family

This concluding session will try to link all previous readings and discussion topics. Time and physical distance will have allowed for some reflection and possibly changed some perspectives through the development of vocabularies enabled by the readings. How can this be applied to our everyday lives and how do we define the material changes that were effected by these shifts in perspectives?

Further details can be found on the Klub Baca Selepas Kerja Facebook group. This project is made possible through support from the Foundation for Arts Initiatives.

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