My names is Eric Ngalle Charles and I was born on Buea, Cameroon. I was not always known as Eric Charles, I went with my maternal grandfather’s name which is Mosre Mo Ngwa, loosely translated to mean ‘Dog of Dawn’. When father Francis baptised me in the early parts of 1980, then my name was changed. Eric is the name my mother Calls me when I have done something wrong, Ngalle she calls me when it is time for a reward.
Officially I am still in Russia, the Cameroonian passport that I used to gain entry into Russia, is still in Russia. I came into the UK as a Zimbabwean in July 1999. In my most recent book Asylum the immigration officer who interviews the main protagonist Abdul is based on the immigration officer who first interviewed me at Heathrow, Mr Marlowe.
It has a taking me over sixteen years to be able to write about the various incidents that took place back home in my small village of Wovilla, in Buea, Cameroon that saw me living my village at such haste. In doing so, I became a victim of human trafficking and ended up with a one way student visa to Russia instead of Belgium. It was only when I arrived in Malta that I was told: “Mr Charles, unfortunately your visa does not allow you to transit in Malta, you have to go to Moscow as you have just a one way student visa.”
The contents of my memoirs are currently being edited by Jon Gower, the foreword is written by Owen Sheers to be published by Parthian books at the Hay Festival next year.
I am a poet, dramatist and novelists and I run Black Entertainment Wales, an Arts organisation that provides a platform for artists in the BMEs communities to showcase their work.
I was fortunate enough to be invited by Literature Wales to attend their conference in 2002 in Llandudno and the topic was literature and trauma; it was as if a mysterious courier had conveyed to them what was taking place in my internal courts of justice, for this conference set a template for my work.
Since then I have edited and published Between a Mountain and a Sea, Soft Touch, Nobody’s Perfect, and Festival of the Wolves – poetry anthologies by refugees, other migrants and indigenous artists in I collaboration with Hafan books and Dr Tom Chessman.
My first play, My Mouth Brought Me Here, was showcased at Encampment in London Southbank on the 4th of August 2016 (pictures below). It is a play based around my poetry and an Old West African Proverb and it explores the themes of migration, language, freedom of expression and dictatorship. “In some societies silent is Gold”, “In some societies talking is silver”, “In some societies one can survive a fall from a twenty story building and survive, while answering a simple Yes or No question can be tantamount to decapitation”.
It is based in a society where the truth is owned by a select few and new rules are made everyday. No one knows the rules, the greatest secret, that which is hidden from the masses is that of “shouting”.
The play is directed by Peter Scott of 3 Crate Production. It is self contained play and can be performed anywhere.
My new book Asylum is a docu-drama and is part of a trilogy. I have been paired with Marjorie Lofti Gill, Iranian born America writer to perform at the Dundee Literary Festival. Our performance will be at Banar Hall from 4:30 on the 22nd of October. I have always felt the need to use literature and creative writing as a means of overcoming Trauma, it has worked for me, I highly recommend.
Photos © Sarah Hickson