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Antoine Cassar

Antoine is a Maltese poet whose iconic work, Passport, is embraced by so many on his international tours. He is the founder of the Facebook page Spread Poetry, Not Fear launched in reaction to the 2015 Paris bombings; a translator, cultural organiser and a creative activist for migrants’ rights and universal freedom of movement.

Born in London to Maltese parents in 1978, Antoine grew up between England, Malta and Spain, and worked and studied in Italy, France and Luxembourg. In 2004, after a 13-year absence from the Maltese islands, he returned to Qrendi, the village of his family, to re-learn a language he had almost forgotten. This festival marks Antoine’s first visit to Australia. (www.passaportproject.org)

Launched in Malta in 2009 and since then at several venues in Europe, Asia and North America, Passport is a protest poem denouncing a long, non-exhaustive list of border absurdities and atrocities, nested inside a love poem to humanity as a naturally migrating species. Printed in the form of an 'anti-passport' valid for all peoples and for all landscapes, the booklet is currently available in 9 languages, with proceeds passed on to grassroots associations and collectives that provide direct assistance to refugees in 14 countries. Passport is an anarchist love poem, a declaration of universal citizenship, the vision of a world where the fear of barriers and frontiers has long been overcome. A world without customs and checkpoints, without border police out to snatch away the dawn, without the need for forms, documents, or biometric data… A world without the need to cross the desert barefoot, nor to float off on a raft, on an itinerary of hope all too quickly struck out by the realities of blackmail and exploitation. The modulating verses of the poem, the rhythm and alliteration, give force to a voice looking to quicken the planetary conscience of the listener.

“Yours

  this passport

  for all peoples,

  with a rainbow flag, and the emblem of a migratory goose encircling the globe,

  in all the languages you want, official or dialect,

  in ocean blue, or dried blood red, or coal black ready for burning, the choice is yours,

  take it where you will, your passage is safe and unobstructed, the door unscrewed from the jambs,

  you can enter and leave without fear, there is no one to stop you,

  no one to jump you in the queue, or send you to the back, there’s no need to wait,

  no one to say Ihre Papiere Bitte!, quickening your heartbeat with the pallour of his finger,

  no one to squint or glare at you according to the gross domestic product per capita of the nation you’ve left behind,

  no one to brand you stranger, alien, criminal, illegal immigrant, or extra-communautaire, nobody is extra, …”

(from the English version of Passport, adapted by Albert Gatt & Antoine Cassar)