Writer uses language to 'engage, challenge and empower'

Monikka Eliah. Picture: Simon Bennett
Monikka Eliah. Picture: Simon Bennett

Sweatshop Women: Volume One was officially launched at the 2019 Sydney Writers' Festival earlier this month.

The book features short stories and poems by 22 culturally diverse women from western Sydney exploring issues of love, faith, home and history and is part of an ongoing push by Sweatshop to bring more stories from culturally and linguistically diverse communities to the forefront of Australian literature.

Fairfield resident Monikka Eliah is one of the writers to have her work published. The Champion caught up with the 27-year-old to talk about her story Bethet Dinga.

How did you get involved with Sweatshop Women: Volume One? I've been a member of Sweatshop for a few years now and when the Sweatshop women's group formed I was happy to engage with the writers in the space and work towards the publication.

Can you tell me a little bit about the story you wrote for Sweatshop Women: Volume One? What inspired your piece?

On the surface my story Bethet Dinga is about me at the age of four, getting nits from a kid next door. More deeply the work explores family, the domestic space and sacrifice. The piece was prompted during one of Sweatshop women's workshops where we each spoke about our complicated relationships with hair and how functioned symbolically in each of our respective communities.

Local writers Claire Cao and Monikka Eliah are featured in Sweatshop Women: Volume One.

Local writers Claire Cao and Monikka Eliah are featured in Sweatshop Women: Volume One.

How does your background shape your writing?

The places we come from, the people who raise us and the cultures we engage with undoubtedly shape us. As an extension of myself my writing is also affected. The Assyrian language influences my structure and expression. The language is rich in metaphor, high modality phrasing and word play.

Where did your passion for writing come from?

I have always enjoyed reading. I was the kid begging the school library teacher to let me borrow over the Christmas break. So I always had the idea of writing somewhere in my mind.

However, it was after my first meeting of Sweatshop writers group that I really wanted to pursue it for myself. Seeing the other writers using language and story to engage, challenge and empower was incredible. It made me want to do those things myself.

Are you working on anything now?

I am currently working on a few more stories for publication. As well as a two person play for Theatre. I am always writing for screen, stage or print.

How long have you been writing for? Have you been published anywhere else?

I've been writing for about about four years. My work is also published in the Big Black Thing chapter 1 & 2, The Lifted Brow, Southerly Journal Online, Runway Experimental Art and SBS Life.

  • Sweatshop Women: Volume One is out now and can be purchased directly from the Sweatshop website: sweatshop.ws. It is supported by I.C.E, Create NSW, Australia Council for the Arts, Western Sydney University and the Packer Foundation.