WHO IS MANTIST ORYEM?
There’s always a story behind every story.
I remembered seeing both young and old people with blisters all over their feet. Mosquitos and other wildlife tormented people during the nights and dehydration afflicted them during the day. As we walked, we could hear the sound of heavy guns echoing from a distance, as if it was coming our way forcing us to walk even faster, with a heavy load on top of everyone heads. I was given 5 liters of salt to carry. If you didn’t know, salt is crazy heavy: that shit made me stumble painfully as I moved along .
Anyway, we crossed about 7 dangerous rivers and I almost fell victim of one. I somehow decided it was a good idea to jump into the river to attempt to cross it on my own. I was helped across by one good samaritan lady who saw me going down stream. At one point, we were hit by a severe storm in the middle of nowhere: there was no shelter and people where afraid to hide under big trees in fear of being hit by lighting. A terrible 2-weeks experience.
1993, that was the beginning of my story.
We fled from my country of birth walking for 2 weeks bare feet across the savanna grassland of Eastern Africa, from South Sudan to Uganda. I was barely 6 or 7.
If I thought this was bad, the worst was still to come in the form of life in refugee camps. If there was one thing I hated the most, it would be life in refugee camps. After only 2 weeks into the first camp we arrived too, a crisis almost took my life.The UNHCH, WFP or whoever was responsible provided the refugees with poisonous beans covered in toxic pesticide. The result was hundreds of dead bodies. I was nearly died, but I was miraculously saved by my mom, who had been already in the contry for several months before we arrived. She was staying approximately 8 hours drive away from where our camp was. Apparently the war hit them first and they left several months before us. My older brother and I were staying with my grandparents at the time. When my mum heard that we were in the country, she came as fast as a bullet. It was a complete miracle not only that she came, but that she received the news that we were in the country. Those days, 100% of the refugees didn’t have access to the telephone. And there was no freedom of movement. Refugees were restricted only to move within the camp. You cannot just get up, pack and go. It was like a prison in the jungle. So, it was a complete miracle that she came in time. There was no access to any medical center in the camp. When you got sick, you had to pray to God that your immune system would be strong enough to fight whatever you got; or just die. Man, I was sick like a dog. I remember my entire body was swelling up. You could press any part of my body with your fingers and it would go right in. I was seriously more dead than alive. When my mom saw me, tears rolled down her eyes. I remembered hearing my mom praying. I wasn’t really sure whether she was talking to me or to God. “You will not die, my son, she proclaimed. My heart is pure. I never had any conflict with anyone. And as long as am alive, nothing will happen to you”. At that instance my mom didn’t want to stay another second in that refugee camp.
She just wanted to pick me up and make a U-turn, but her mom and some of her sibling who she hasn’t seen for over a year were also in the camp. To make the matter worst, her mom had leg infection and it was eating itself up. She was in so much pain that she couldn’t sleep at night. On the other hand, her younger sister’s child was sick for a few days and just passed away the same day my mum got there. It was a complete nightmare that you just wish you could wake up from. But there was no waking up and there was no escaping. We were trapped. Anyway, my mum did whatever she had to do and within 24 hours, we were ready to leave. As we were set to go, suddenly, we couldn’t find any car that could take us. There was no vehicle coming or going from the camp. The only option we had was to pay someone with a bike who could take us on a painful 3 hours ride along a narrow, busy, bumpy and rocky road to a small town where we could possibly find a car. When we got there, there was no mean of transportation. We waited for more than 10 hours before some old truck showed up and agreed to take us. By the time we got to our destination, I was already so weak that I wasn’t able to walk anymore. I presume that I was a day or two away from death. My mom threw her bag on the floor, picked me up and put me on her back to carry me to a mission hospital, where they saved my little black ass. I owe everything to my mom and those doctors: After that experience, I wanted nothing more than becoming a doctor myself, but that’s another story. When I got better, we moved back to a refugee camp where I spent the next 10 years of my life, moving from refugee camps to refugee camp in conditions I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I can describe life in a refugee camps in 5 words: “ A daily fight to survive “. I remembered my entire grade 1 to 3 classroom was under a tree, sitting on rocks that we carried ourselves. You either bring something to sit on, or sit on a dusty floor. There was no other option. They didn’t have enough classrooms or desks to accommodate everyone; I used to share everything with my friends. Pens, books even clothes.
On December 9, 2004 at 5PM, we landed in Brisbane International’s airport. We came here as refugees. Coming to Australia was a dream until we landed. The first 2 years in the country, I gotta say, I was at the bottom of all citizens. In this social economy pyramid where you have the top 1% of the wealthy right on the top pinnacle of the pyramid, then you have the top 10% of the rich, then you got your upper middle class, then the lower middle class, then the low income earners, then you got guys coming outta prison and finally, you got Mantist. Right there at the rock bottom of all citizen. At least some of this guys coming outta prison can speak English, they know their way around town and they have some sort of skills that can land them a job. I didn’t have any of those luxury.The only people I knew was my 3 brothers, my single mum and our case support worker appointed to us by the government. Her job was to help us settle as quickly as possible. For 3 months or so, she has a check list that she needed to tick as part of her job. Here is the bank. Here is the closest shop. Here is how you get to school. Here is the way to your GP. Just like that, and after 3 months, she was gone permanently out of our lives. We missed her when she wasn’t coming around because we started building emotional connection with her. Little did we know, to her, it was job as usual. We were on our own scratching our heads with how overwhelming everything were. I could barely speak any English. I remembered, I used to feel like a dumbnut when speaking with the locals. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying and they couldn’t understand me. At some point, I had to spell what I mean on a piece of paper coz no-one could understand me. We were financially doom. I remembered, my monthly expenses was little under $40. My transport came outta there. My entertainment came outta there. When I was out and about, my food expenses also came out of that $40. The budget was tight and many things, I had to go without. Like skipping lunches when am not home and never go to the cinema. Something I wanted to do so much. I was 15 turning 16 when I got here. So, they enrol me in one of the public high school - Coparoo Secondary College. During school holidays, with nothing much to do, I was spending lots of my time at South Bank Pool swimming. We were living in a suburb called Greenslopes which was 7+ km from South Bank. Everyday I would walked that long distance to and from. It wasn’t because I enjoy long walk in the hot and humid Brisbane weather. The fact was, I couldn’t keep spending $2 on transport. Every cent save can go toward lunch. I was spending all day out of home. I would leave home around 9am in the morning andI spent all day swimming. Around 2pm, I would be starving. But the only thing I could afford was a $2.50 750ml Ice Break drink. With the mix of milk and coffee, that shit was keeping me up on my feet. The reason, I was walking all that way to South Bank Swimming pool was not for the love of South Bank Pool, it was the only free swimming pool in town that I knew of.
There was a paid swimming pool just 5 minutes walk from our house but Mantist got no budget for that.After 2 years into the country, finally, I got myself a part-time job at Macdonald. I was working 15+ hours, getting paid $6.90 an hr. Every fortnight, I was making $200 to $250. It felt like I have hit a JACKPOT. In spite of all that, there was a BIG yawn inside me for a quality and luxury lifestyle. I remember, I used to go to the richest suburb and picture myself living in places like that. I would sit on a hills looking at a busy roads and would visualise myself driving the most expensive cars on the road. My favourite car was JEEP. I would get so excited and somehow, forget about my current circumstances. The fact is, I was so broke that if you held me upside down and hopping for some money to fall down from my pocket, you would be disappointed. That was my early life in Australia.
To be honest, starting a business was not something I’ve dreamt of at all. But I’ve learned very quickly living in this country that, if you don’t learn to make money work for you, you will work for money for the rest of your life.
I’ve also realised after few years working at a job that, a 9-5 job was not and will NEVER get me the personal and financial FREEDOM I so much desire. No matter how hard I work!
I don’t know about you, but I could not see myself working 40hrs per week, 40 weeks per year for 40 years. I knew entrepreneurship is the only vehicle that can get me to the lifestyle I envision.I remember it like yesterday. It was 4 years ago. I was 25. A starving artist living from pay cheque to pay cheque. I’ve just started dating this beautiful Italian lady with expensive taste.
I remembered when we dated for about 4 months or so, she came to me and said, “You know, my mum said, you should take me to nice restaurant some time.” I was like, “thank you very much for going to your mum behind my back.”In her defends, the nicest restaurant I took her up until then was Nando and grill burger shops. She’s from a rich upbringing and refused to settle for that. Today, she is the mother of my son, my best friend and my biggest supporter in the world. They’re the reason I wake up early in the morning and working late into the night.
I had strong desire to spend more time with her. Which I couldn’t like I wanted to because I was spending 8 hours plus a day at a job. On top of that, I could barely find time for working out and creating music something I really love to do more off. My desired for personal and financial freedom became so strong that pushes me to act in spite of all the fears, doubts and poor self image that was stopping me. ’ve learned a BIG lesson from that experience. As long as you have a BIG emotional dreams, you can almost always overcome any challenges, setbacks and difficulties that come your way in pursuit of your desire goals. A friendly word of advice, if you don’t have big emotional dreams, don’t even get started on a challenging venture like entrepreneurship. You’re not going to make it. Big emotional dreams is the only thing that will keep you in the game when setbacks and challenges come your way. And trust me, they will come. I knew I could not just quit my job no matter how desperately I wanted to leave. Because I needed the money from my job to cover my bills.
I started looking for something that I could start outside my job and build real income with to a point where I could match my job income so that I could walk away from that job I hated into doing something I enjoy full-time.That was 4 years ago when I was 25. Today, I have created several sources of incomes which give me some sense of personal freedom and options. I can make money through my IT field. I can make money through my music production business. I can make money through my consulting business. I can make money through my music albums And I did all that outside my 9-5 jobs. Today, I am pretty happy with my life and by many standard, I considered myself a success. I have a very comfortable home, Extremely enjoyable and loving relationship. A loving and supportive partner and a beautiful few months old son. I am on intimate relationship with God and I feel like he is always leading and guiding me in all my ways. I earn good money for my areas of expertise and service. I associate and work closely with some of the most positive and successful group of individuals who we share the same vision and where we want to end in life. When I reflect back on my life journey, I realised, it could have been easy for me to sit on the couch and watch TV all day then drink myself to sleep and complain how unfair the world is. But I chose to be the guy that get up, go out and hustle to make thing happen for himself.
- Founder of Mantistic Productions
- Founder of Get Paid Living Your Passion
- Music Producer and spoken word poet – Mantistmusic.com
- Performed in many Brisbane festivals such as the Brisbane Festival and the Zillmere Multicultural Festival
- Headlined for World Refugee Community Day Festival with a turnout of 13,000 plus people
- Performed in many small festivals such as Youth Day Festival and World Aids Day Festival, and many clubs, pubs, birthday parties, schools, and more
- Been featured in many magazines and newspaper articles: such as The Courier Mail, MX, City News, Scene Magazine, The Chronicle, and more
- Appeared on many radio stations (where his music was played or he was interviewed) such as ABC Coast FM, ABC Radio, SBS Radio radio, 4ZZZ and more
- Released 3 original music albums and 1 spoken word album
- Sold 25,000 hard and digital copies of his albums
- Facilitated dozen of music and spoken words workshops
- Finalist in Australian Poetry Slam 2011
- Winner of Griffith University short film most outstanding male performance
- Qmusic song Award finalist 2008 and 2009
- Major in Audio and Film productions with SAE qantm
- Diploma in Community Development
- Early careers in sales and IT Engineering
- Over 150,000 plus followers on his online platforms