Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Creative Writing


Sylvia Aguilar


What makes migrants who do not face the threat of loss of life or limb leave their country? And is the leaving justified? Why should such migrants burden taxpayers of receiving countries with their personal problems, and why should it be the business of those taxpayers to accommodate them? By 2016, when these questions began to bother me, I had been living in Switzerland for five years, and had just relocated to the Netherlands, not as an illegal immigrant but as an expatriate, an employee of the United Nations. I had, therefore, gone through the experience of voluntarily uprooting myself from my country of birth, Malawi in southern Africa, and settling in a Europe of individualism, strange weather, strange food and strange languages that were nothing like I had been used to in my part of the world. I had also met and interacted with various migrants, both documented and undocumented, who had been living in Europe for years, some of whom, despite endlessly being short of money and unable to find good jobs, refused to entertain any thought of returning to their home countries. That same year there were elections in the United States. One presidential election candidate, Donald J. Trump, made a bold and unwavering promise to his supporters that he was going to build a wall on the Mexican border, to keep out what he called illegal migrants. By then I had heard of migrants being blamed for depriving locals of job opportunities, or for importing violence, theft and all sorts of other ills into the receiving countries "Switzerland being no exception" but it had never occurred to me that the situation warranted construction of such a physical barrier, the way a farmer might want to protect their grain store using ratguards. Here is how Mr. trump put it: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. That the idea of building a wall was emanating from America was even more unsettling, especially because America's Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal, and that among their unalienable rights are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I found it curious that the founding fathers of the United States included the pursuit of happiness as non-negotiable, most likely because it is at the core of existentialism. Why do we exist? Why do I, Stanley Onjezani Kenani, exist? I am born, not out of choice, but because nature decides that I come into this world. I am sent to school not only to gain knowledge of how the world works, but also to acquire skills that can make me qualify for a job. I go to work so that I can buy anything I want and be happy. All of us spend every single day pursuing happiness. And so, if you can't find this happiness in one place, why shouldn't you go and look for it in another? Birds do that all the time. European stork, for example, escape winter every year and fly for more than 10,000 km to enjoy the summers of southern Africa, returning at a time of their choosing. Why should human beings fail to have similar freedom? Do migrants themselves derive fun from leaving their countries for others? Do they find joy in trapping themselves in illegality? What makes them decide I have had enough, I must leave, no matter the consequences? What makes a moth fly into a flame? The idea of writing Leaving started at the time.




Recieved from ProQuest

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Rights Holder

Stanley Onjezani Kenani

Available for download on Friday, January 01, 2123