Amira's Suitcase Inspiration Story with Vikki Conley

March 15th, 2021
We were lucky to hear from author Vikki Conley, as she speaks to us all about where her inspiration for the wonderful Amira's Suitcase originated.

I stood with dripping hair staring at an unexpected pop-up art installation outside my local swimming spot. Four open suitcases had been lovingly planted with vibrant garden herbs by artist Jiann Hughes. Each represented culinary dishes from the countries of newly arrived communities to my local region.

Cultivating Tastes – pop-up art installation by Jiann Hughes. Credit: Jiann Hughes. Find more about Jiann here.

The art triggered memories from my years of travel and work with the international aid agency, World Vision. In Somalia we drove through the parched desert landscape to arrive at a small oasis of a market garden. It flourished with papaya, silver beet and coriander and was irrigated because we’d worked with the community to help it source water. 

I have a great memory of being greeted by a beaming young man holding enormous bunches of shallots. These were the projects that I loved the most because they offered a family so much — fresh food, income and freedom to lift themselves out of poverty.  

Young man beaming with shallots, Somalia.

During my time in Africa, my heart was broken by many children and families who shared their stories with me. Many were displaced in their own country. Many had fled conflict, leaving with only the clothes on their back, walking for days. Others had lived for years in refugee camps, some with children who’d only ever known the wire-enclosed camps.

Vikki has dedicated Amira’s Suitcase to all the children who have ever shared their story with her.

Jiann’s artwork took me back to these memories. It stirred in me ideas about journey, growth, arriving in new places, finding new homes and sprouting seeds. I pondered how perfectly suitcases represented journey… and wondered if a seed could actually sprout in the corner of a suitcase… and from here my story grew.

I started reading articles about what happens to precious things like seeds, museum artifacts and artwork from galleries when conflict erupts in a country. I discovered that seeds were one of the first things to be secretly shipped out of Syria during the beginning of its decade long civil war. These were unique varieties of chickpeas, lentils, and alfalfa — some of the most important crops on Earth — stashed away in a vault of a seed gene-bank on a remote Artic island.

My mind reflected on how important seeds were for a country. What if an entire country couldn’t farm for 10 years because of war? What would be left behind when families were forced to flee their homes? What would happen if seeds were lost forever? 

The symbolism of ‘seeds of hope’ and ‘growth’ was what inspired me to weave seeds so prominently into my story. Essentially, Amira’s Suitcase is a story of friendship, but it is the process of nurturing the seeds together, that unites the new friends. Ultimately, I wanted to shape a story that might spark conversations in classrooms and at bedsides about welcoming new people into new places. 

My wish is that Amira’s Suitcase can convey the message that friends can be made anywhere and always, through kindness. I hope that like Jian’s artwork, Amira’s Suitcase will be thought-provoking, stirring, inspiring. I hope that it can spread ‘seeds of hope’ for all children, wherever they are, whenever they need to find new friends in new places.

Vikki can be found on Instagram and on her website.

Amira's Suitcase

It begins with a tiny seed growing inside a suitcase. With Amira’s care, the tiny seed starts to sprout. Find out what happens when kindness flourishes...
Amira’s Suitcase is a gentle, thought-provoking tale about friendship and hope.

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