The Uncaged Voice


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'The Uncaged Voice – Stories by Writers in Exile' Author Readings and Book Signing

Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | 7 to 9:30 p.m. (Doors at 6:30 p.m)

Old Town Hall (460 Botsford Street)

Free admission | Light refreshments provided


Abdulrahman Matar.jpgIn October 2023, the book 'The Uncaged Voice' was published from Cormorant Books, with the support of PEN Canada and The Canada Council for the Arts. It features stories of 16 refugee writers in Canada, from 14 countries.

Everyone of the contributing writers to 'The Uncaged Voice — Stories by Writers in Exile': is a professional writer and journalist having escaped arrest and torture in countries where freedom of the press and expression is more aspirational than realized.

Featuring Abdulrahman Matar, originally from Syria, now living in Newmarket, Mr. Matar is a Syrian writer and journalist residing in Canada as a refugee since 2015. Since his days as a young man in Syria, he has devoted his life to issues of rights, freedoms and civil society in addition to culture and literature. Consequently, Matar was arrested and imprisoned five times for exercising his freedom of expression.

He has published six books of poetry, stories, and novels as well as articles and political studies in the Arab press. In addition to being the Editorial advisor of the literary magazine "Awraq," Matar is also founder and director of the Syrian-Mediterranean Cultural Forum (SMCF) which focuses on introducing Arab writers and artists to the Canadian community.

Mr. Matar states unequivocally: "Canada has given me protection, safety and peace on a personal level. I also enjoy freedoms, especially freedom of expression."

The title of the book "The Uncaged Voice" captures the idea of freedom of expression by those who had been silenced, Keith Ross Leckie the book's editor, who has been working with the refugee journalists from the beginning. Many of their personal stories detail the struggles of oppressed journalists compelled to flee their countries.

Keith Ross Leckie.jpgKeith Ross Leckie has worked as a scriptwriter, novelist and film director from his home base in Toronto. He lives with his wife, award winning film, television and musical producer Mary Young Leckie. They have three adult children and three grandchildren. He has written movies and mini-series for Canadian and American television (CBC, CTV, NBC, CBS and Lifetime) including the mini-series "The Arrow", "The Halifax Explosion" and "Everest", and movies "Committed" and "An Officer and a Murderer". His best-selling second novel "Coppermine" is being adapted as a feature and his third novel "Cursed! Blood of the Donnellys" is currently in development as the dramatic series.  He has been a neighbourhood member and supporter of Writers in Exile for many years.

Meet our Guest Authors

Joining Mr. Matar for the Author Readings evening and book signing will be three authors also featured in the 'Uncaged Voice - Stories by Writers in Exile':

Arzu Yildiz.jpegArzu Yildiz is a Turkish-born investigative journalist, senior reporter, editor and public speaker, and the author of four books. She built a career at the liberal, democratic daily Taraf where she reported on human rights issues, corruption, and illegal gun trafficking. Jailed and stripped of guardianship of her children for reporting on the trial of state prosecutors, Yildiz spent five months in hiding after a government crackdown on press freedoms before fleeing to Canada via Greece. "I take every step for refugees who are in despair anywhere in the world, and I tell them, 'We must move forward.'" She has written critical pieces of investigative journalism about unresolved murder cases in the Southeast against Kurdish businessmen and illegal weapons supply to Syria. Yildiz was the recipient of the 2021 PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-in-Exile Scholarship. She is featured in Canadian film-maker James Cullingham's documentary The Cost of Freedom released in Fall 2021. She has led research for New Canadian Media into the social and economic situation of refugee journalists living in Canada.

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Pedro A. Restrepo (Colombia) is a writer, journalist, interpreter, and human rights activist residing in Canada who is the author of books of poetry, a novel, and works on pedagogy. He left his beloved Colombia when his father was murdered for his political beliefs. 

He holds an MBA from the Spanish University Isabel I, and is a specialized translator from Humber College in Toronto, and Chichester College England. He has won a number of literary and journalistic awards. His published works include:

'Arcadio' a Novel – 2005

Two books of poetry, 'Sombras y Poesía' 2000 and 'Cantos de Almas' 2003.

Gezahegn M.Demissie.jpgGezahegn Mekonnen Demissie, an Ethiopian journalist and filmmaker, stands as a pivotal figure in the realm of media and cultural advocacy. As one of the founding board members of PEN Ethiopia, and the Executive Director of Bridge Entertainment, his dedication to freedom of expression and storytelling has been unwavering.

Currently residing in exile in Toronto, Canada, Gezahegn is the driving force behind the community journal "New Perspective አዲስ ቅኝት," where he serves as both editor and publisher. Adding another layer to his impactful contributions, he hosts the radio show/podcast "New Perspective አዲስ ቅኝት." Additionally, he co-wrote a book titled ''The Uncaged Voice'' and holds the position of board member and Chair of the Writer's in Exile group under PEN Canada, advocating for writers in challenging circumstances.

In Ethiopia, Gezahegn directed and produced numerous documentaries, two feature films, and a TV series focusing on urban culture and architecture in Addis Ababa.

Emigrating to Canada in 2015, he has continued to pursue projects shedding light on Ethiopia and the immigrant experience.

Gezahegn's dedication to his craft is evident in his first short documentary, "Tizita," created for CBC Short Doc in collaboration with Canadian production companies Primitive Entertainment and Rhombus Media. Recognized for his exceptional contributions, Gezahegn received the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada award in 2019 for outstanding journalism within the Ethiopian community. In 2021, he and his media outlet, New Perspective አዲስቅኝት, were honored with a Community Champion award by Arif Varani, MP for Parkdale-High Park in Toronto.

Gezahegn's journey stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of storytelling, advocacy, and resilience in the face of adversity.

Featured Artist

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Mwafaq Katt.jpegMwafaq Katt

Mwafaq Katt, a prominent Syrian Canadian artist, is recognized for his remarkable contributions to political cartooning, animation filmmaking, and painting. Born in Damascus, Katt made history by creating the first Syrian animated short film in 1990, marking the beginning of his illustrious career into filmmaking. Throughout his journey, his works have garnered numerous awards at esteemed international film festivals, including the Carthage and Cairo Film Festivals. His contributions to political satire, animation filmmaking, and painting have earned him widespread acclaim and recognition, solidifying his status as a trailblazer as an artist, educator, filmmaker in the broader artistic community.

To learn more about Color Maqams, the exhibit by Mwafaq Katt, click the exhibit button below