One day, I was at school, I was teaching, there was a friend of my father who came to tell me that 'You have to leave... If you don't leave now... you will be killed like your father.'
Nickel cannot return to the country of his birth. In 2000, his father was arrested and taken away when the political regime in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) changed. He still does not know what happened to his father. Nickel and his nephew Guillian left Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, for Kisangani where his pregnant wife Gertrude was staying with his family. Ten days after she gave birth to their first son, rebels came to the family home and brutalised everyone. Gertrude fled with Nickel's sister on foot to Cameroon. The rebels captured Nickel and Guillian but they escaped. After almost five months, they reached Douala, Cameroon.
Nickel and Gertrude (pregnant with first daughter Jesmira)
outside their church in Douala, Cameroon, 2005
Source: Nickel Mundabi Ngadwa
After three years separation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) informed Nickel that his wife was alive and searching for him. They reunited in 2004 at the border of Cameroon and the DRC, Gertrude uncertain that it would really be him. They had two more children, but their two eldest (one from Nickel's previous marriage) were missing.
In 2009, the family's refugee applications were approved and they were settled in Shepparton in regional Victoria. Nickel paints and carves and continues to attend English classes. He hopes to make a living as a professional artist. Their sons Gaspy and Exaucé were found in 2011 and are trying to join the family in Shepparton. Guillian remains missing. Life is not easy. English is a hard language to learn and unemployment is high in Shepparton, especially amongst recent refugees. The family became Australian citizens in 2014.