Para Site has published Afterwork Readings/Babasahin Matapos ang Trabaho/Bacaan Selepas Kerja/ 工餘, an anthology of migrant and domestic worker literature conceived in collaboration with KUNCI Cultural Studies Centre in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This volume about and by migrant workers contains short stories, poems, and excerpts from novels and plays, written by classical literary figures of the region, established contemporary authors, as well as domestic workers themselves. We hope Afterwork Readings will help the encounter and exchange through literature between the different migrant worker communities and Hong Kong society at large. It also aims to bring together a relevant selection of texts on this important issue written in our region over the past century, as well as to promote the work of the most promising writers from the domestic worker community.
The idea for Afterwork Readings grew from discussions started during KUNCI’s participation in Para Site’s International Art Residency in January 2015, and the subsequent collaborative project A Room of Their Own. As part of this project, the Afterwork Reading Club/Klub Baca Selepas Kerja was devised as a reading group of six sessions that ran through August and September of the same year, and included a group made up of members of the Indonesian migrant domestic worker community. At the end of the planned six sessions, a suitcase of books was donated to the community with a commitment from Para Site to continue supporting the rental of space necessary for the mobile library. Afterwork Readings is also seen as a support for continuing reading groups that would include different migrant and domestic worker groups, irrespective of their native or main language. Translated from four different languages (Chinese, English, Indonesian, and Tagalog) into the first three, the book hopes to create a shared cultural space between the often insular groups of Filipino and Indonesian migrant domestic workers or the more isolated groups of other migrant workers.
Taking the materials gathered during the the Afterwork Reading Club, as well as the literary contributions from members of the reading group as the embryo of the publication, we have expanded it with literature from different geographic contexts, with a special focus on the Philippines. We were helped in our efforts by the advice of our colleagues
Texts by Bulosan, Blunden, and Shih, highlight earlier waves of labor migration within and out of Asia, which are then mirrored by more contemporaneous accounts by Alvarez, Himberg, Ibong Maya, and Xu, together with selection of works from participants of the Afterwork Reading Club. In some cases, for example Xu, whose work as a poet was not made known until after his suicide in a Foxconn dormitory, and Ibong Maya, whose real identity and living status remains unknown, the plaintive first person accounts shed light on the unseen and repressed narratives of misery.
The Afterwork Readings are designed byand feature paintings by Balinese Indonesian artist, (1966–2006). Murni, as she was known, was also part of the many waves of labor migration within Indonesia, and for a period of time was a domestic helper to a Chinese family in Jakarta. Her paintings of domestic, intimate, or claustrophobic spaces, of dreams and nightmares, of desires and hyper-sexualized visions, grotesque and humorous at the same time, go beyond the stereotypes that follow domestic and migrant workers as the anonymous lower echelons of our everyday society. We are grateful to Mintio, Ketemu Project Space and I GAK Murniasih Foundation for their participation in this project.
KUNCI’s residency and The Afterwork Reading Club are made possible through generous support from the Foundation for Arts Initiatives.