Celebrating Diversity through Creativity Artists: Dacchi Dang, Elham Eshraghian, Humaira Fayazi, Mastaneh Azarnia, Mirela Cufurovic, Saidin Salkic Presented by the City of Greater Dandenong, the HOME Exhibition is an annual program that promotes and supports artists seeking asylum or those with a refugee background. The HOME Exhibition showcases the talent of these artists and celebrates the enormous contribution that they make to our community, both in the City of Greater Dandenong and beyond. Now in its sixth year, HOME 2020 includes six artists from across Australia who have created works that respond to the theme of HOME. This book celebrates and explores the work of the six artists through both their artworks and through their words, stories and reflections.
Cover Image: Humaira Fayazi, Being Strong Despite Pressure, clay Left Image: Mastaneh Azarnia, Untitled, pastel on paper
Mayoral Message Greater Dandenong City Council is proud to present HOME 2020 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a national arts program celebrating the work of six artists who are seeking asylum or from refugee backgrounds. It is fitting this exhibition has found its home in Greater Dandenong, a community recognised as Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most culturally diverse. Our diversity is our greatest strength. It defines who we are as a community and is a source of powerful storytelling. The HOME Exhibition provides a unique opportunity to celebrate our diversity through creativity. Now in its sixth year the HOME Exhibition is for both emerging and established artists. Since it first began it has been responsible for unearthing some amazing new talent and support for the exhibition continues to grow. Exhibitions like HOME not only highlight all the great things happening in our community but provide an outlet for people who are newly arrived in Australia to express their thoughts, feelings and educate others about their cultural backgrounds. The artists we have selected this year provide a snapshot of the diversity in our communities, with each artist bringing their own story, history and perspective to their work, all centred on the theme of home.
This year our program has been further expanded to provide additional professional development for the six selected artists from across Australia. This included workshops and networking opportunities with National Gallery of Victoria senior curator Simon Maidment and renowned artist Deanne Gilson. Each artist has also worked with writer and editor Nadia Niaz on a written piece about their work and artistic practice which you will read in the coming pages. This year we are pleased to welcome IKEA Springvale again as our exhibition partner. The ongoing support for this exhibition from IKEA Springvale is greatly appreciated, and critical to enable us to bring an exhibition of this calibre to audiences each year. In closing, I would like to personally congratulate the six artists chosen to participate in HOME 2020. Your work is meaningful, thought-provoking and relevant and it is an honour to be able to showcase your work. We also hope that audiences will embrace the new virtual format for this yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s exhibition, leading to broader exposure and appreciation of the exhibited works. Thank you and welcome to HOME 2020. Cr Jim Memeti, Greater Dandenong Mayor
Dacchi Dang Nostalgia explores the liminal space between the private and the public through a series of photographs taken using a pinhole camera. The photographs are based on my memories of my life in my first home in Australia at the Enterprise Migrant Hostel in Springvale and its surrounds. The hostel was home to many diasporic Vietnamese and was a cultural front line where many refugees were introduced to Australian food, culture and customs. Thirty-eight years later, in Summer 2020, I returned to this temporary home and found it had changed beyond recognition. During those hot summers in the early eighties my family and I layered our footprints along this footpath in our journey to the supermarket for a completely new style of everyday food. We also took special journeys on the weekends, always travelling the same paths to the train station heading to Flinders Street station and from there to Melbourneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Chinatown for more familiar cuisine. In todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Springvale, the Vietnamese community has established its own cultural environment. While spending time observing the activities in the town square and wandering around the neighbourhood, I became fascinated with how the Vietnamese have used, created or claimed the public space by turning it into their own cultural or private space within the larger Springvale area. But the old streets of Springvale still exist in my visual memory, and this superimposition of old and new, of memory and present, is what this body of work, Nostalgia, captures.
Image: Dacchi Dang, Boundary, digital pigment print
Dr Dacchi Dang is a Sydney-based photographic artist and independent researcher, specialising in alternative photographic processes. Dacchi holds several degrees including a PhD from Queensland College of the Arts, Griffith University, and a Master of Arts, from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. He has exhibited his work in Australia and internationally since the mid1990s at venues including Atelier Richelieu, Paris; Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney; Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne; Contemporary Arts Centre of South Australia, Adelaide; Horsham Regional Gallery, Victoria; Metro Arts, Brisbane; Musée du Montparnasse, France; and Taito Community Museum, Tokyo. Artist residences include Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris; Hill End, NSW; and Bundanon Trust, NSW. He is a former management committee board member at 4A. A survey exhibition, Dacchi Dang: An Omen Near & Far, was presented at 4A in 2017 which showcased three-decades of work and a new commission supported by the Australia Council for the Arts which facilitated research in Japan and Vietnam. Dacchi recently completed the Major John Milton Gillespie Bequest art commission for the Australian War Memorial collection with a body of work that explores the experiences of Vietnamese– Australian veterans during the Vietnam Conflict.
Image: Dacchi Dang, Bike, digital pigment print
Elham Eshraghian The End is Glorious, If We Only Persevere is a three-channel video installation, poetically expressing my mother’s experience of displacement after escaping Iran in 1979, during the revolution. The title, a quote by a prominent figure in the Bahá’í Faith, finds its origin in the Bahá’í philosophy that the end of our tumultuous journey makes way for a unified world, something we can attain if we only persevere together, regardless of race, class, gender and culture, borders and differences. During the 1979 Iranian revolution many people were persecuted, exiled, or killed. My film predominantly focuses on the religious persecution of the Bahá’ís, a faith to which my family belongs. It celebrates culture, emphasises the power of belief and prayer, celebrates spirituality, remembers moments of loss, and conveys the complex emotions felt within the refugee experience of displacement by using performance, poetry, music and archival documentation. The installation acts as a message to those who are displaced and have endured hardship, including my mother, and to give voice to a story that should never be silenced.
However, the filmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s poetic and somewhat ambiguous style calls for a wider reflection on oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own experience and the ability to empathise with the Other, whether a refugee arriving in a new country or a host welcoming someone into a country. Empathy for all humankind, especially today, may not be an impossible ideal to attain.
Image: Elham Eshraghian, The End is Glorious, If We Only Persevere, 14:51 minutes, three channel video, video still
Acknowledgements: The Arabic Healing prayer written by The Báb, Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, translates to, ‘O God, Praised and Holy! O God, Merciful and Kind! Remove us from difficulties by Thy grace and favour. Verily, Thou art Merciful and Kind’. The written text within the film comes from a compilation of talks, (The Pitiful Causes of War, and the Duty of Everyone to Strive for Peace) given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during His first stay in Paris, from October to December 1911. ‘The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established,’ proclaimed by the Manifestation of God, Prophet of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, within the scripture Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. Point by Point, poem by poet, Táhirih The Pure One.
Image: Elham Eshraghian, The End is Glorious, If We Only Persevere, 14:51 minutes, three channel video, video still
Elham Eshraghian (Perth 1996) is a Bahá’í installation video artist. Through her work, Elham addresses the emotional impact of displacement felt within her community and her families escape during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. She emphasises the need for empathy in response to the current global, social and political climate and utilises this dialogue through the affective poetic space of installation art and aesthetic devices of choreographed performance and archival documentation. Elham graduated with first-class Honours in Fine Arts from the University of Western Australia, School of Design (2017), and is currently continuing her research at the university. Elham received the Dr. Harold Schenberg Art Fellowship Award during the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art’s Hatched Exhibition (2018) and the Jean Callander Art Prize (2017) for her first major work, Bohrân. Recently, She has exhibited for the John Stringer Art Prize (2019), the 10th Prospect Portrait Prize (2019) and The Hopper Prize (2020) receiving notable commendation for her recent work, The End is Glorious, If We Only Persevere.
Humaira Fayazi I was always interested in art. When I finished school in Kabul, I started taking a few short courses in art. In Afghanistan, you begin by learning realism so that’s what my style was. But after two or three years I felt that realism was not enough for me and I started working with clay and doing installations which were quite successful. I started getting more invested in the situation of women in Afghanistan and the impact of war on us, the way war destroys us from the inside. I was injured in a bomb blast in Kabul in 2017 and it has been a long road to recovery for me. In my culture, clay is feminine, and we believe humans were made from clay. So using clay, I want to show that I am a woman and that I was born and grew up in another country and now I’ve come to a place where everything is different. The culture, the environment, people – it’s all different and I feel like I’ve been born again and I’m growing up again in another country. Home for me means a place where you can be yourself, where you can be safe and where you can be free. In my work, I show that I am from another place and that I remember my past, but also that I am in a new place and am free to show all the different sides of who I am.
Previous image credit: Mirela Cufurovic, Serdžada (Prayer Mat), Work in Progress Watercolour paint on paper Page 18 image credit: Humaira Fayazi, Escape, installation view Page 19 image credit: Humaira Fayazi, Believing, inkjet print
Humaira Fayazi is an emerging artist born in Kabul, Afghanistan. She arrived in Australia in 2018 as a refugee. In Kabul, she ran an art gallery and taught art to young students. From when she was a child, she had a strong interest in poetry and fine art. Things that Humaira is unable to articulate she draws. Art is an integral part of Humaira’s life and where she has found strength in times of sadness and weakness. Humaira’s passion for art stems from its ability to bring her peace in times of turmoil. Her style began as realist but she now works with clay and installations. Humaira has held numerous solo and group exhibitions. Her most recent was an exhibition in 2017 in Afghanistan titled Escape which looked at the impact of war on women. The work depicted on the next page was made by Humaira in April 2017, as part of her final exhibition in Afghanistan, called Escape. “The work highlights the effect that war has on women. Women are like dry ground. The ground is hurting but when you start watering the ground, it will start growing again, and the ground will become lush and green. The women never stop dreaming and loving.” “I was born and grew up in a country with many years of war and killing. I have seen many women lose their husbands, fathers, brothers and children and all of them wait for the good days and for peace. They wait for the war to finish and their chance to start a new life in peace. When this happens they will blossom again. For they learned how to be strong and never gave up.”
Mastaneh Azarnia Mastaneh says she makes art about how she feels, about freedom. She felt so sad and alone on Nauru that she needed to let it out somehow and painting became that outlet. When she wakes from nightmares or when despair overtakes her, Mastaneh makes art to externalise and process those feelings. Mastaneh is self-taught. She started with oils but is currently exploring using pastels as her medium. She prefers to use her hands, she says, finding expression in the textures of the colours and the paper under her fingers. Different colours have different emotional registers for her â&#x20AC;&#x201C; blue and purple, being â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;sadâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; colours, feature quite often in her work. She will often cry as she paints and although this is good for her, her tears sometimes damage her works beyond repair. Mastaneh leaves much of herself on the paper and hopes that in doing so she can communicate to people her perspective and her feelings.
Image: Mastaneh Azarnia, untitled, pastel on paper
Mastaneh Azarnia is a Kurdish Iranian refugee who fled her country in 2013. A self-taught artist, Mastaneh started drawing as a release for her sadness whilst in detention on Nauru for seven years. The body of work shown as part of HOME were all made whilst on Nauru, reflecting her feelings of being there and the faces of other refugees living alongside her.
Left and right images: Mastaneh Azarnia, untitled, pastel on paper
Mirela Cufurovic Serdžada (Prayer Mat) “In our silent prayers, on our knees, with our hands held high, we hope for a better tomorrow. For all the turmoil we’ve seen and all the pain we’ve suffered, we wait patiently in the darkest silence of the night, knowing that He will hear our cries. And although our hearts ache for what once was and for what could have been, we’ve learnt to forge new paths and new lives in a foreign place we now call home.”
Page 26 image: Mirela Cufurovic, Ihsān (Excellence in Faith), watercolour paint and pencils
Mirela Cufurovic is a Sydney-based self-taught artist. She began her art career in late 2010 but has only recently taken up art as a profession. She briefly attended the National Art School in Sydney and has been recognised for her artistic talent by the UNHCR. Mirela specialises in watercolour paintings and drawings and draws most of her inspiration from prominent contemporary artists such as Agnes Cecile, Kelly McKernan and Del Kathryn Barton. She also draws inspiration from local Australian artists including Amani Haydar, Polina Bright and CJ Henry. Mirela’s work iḥsān (Excellence in Faith) was a finalist in the Australian Muslim Artists Art Prize in 2019 and she became a finalist as well as an honorary artist for the UNHCR’s World Refugee Day 2012 Art Competition. While her art practice is constantly evolving, Mirela attempts to create artworks that are not only unique and personalised, but that also reflect her own identity as a Bosnian Muslim survivor of the Bosnian War. She intends to build connections with others who have experienced trauma as a result of war and works to encourage conversations on minority identities. Mirela is also an academic, historian and upcoming author. She specialises in Balkan history, Australian Muslim identity, nationalism, and public history. She has written several papers, with two co-authored chapters to be published later this year. Her artwork and art practice has also been featured on SBS Bosnian Radio, the University of Sydney’s Honi Soit Magazine, and the Australian Muslim Times newspaper.
SaidinSalkic Art has a great responsibility to evolve the cultural identity of an individual and collective consciousness, to moralise it and make it more just, more human and more philosophically relevant on the global stage. As an artist I have felt at times that I have inherited the cultural identity of a country whose mainstream factors, such as Crocodile Dundee, have provincialised, degraded, ridiculed, shamed and belittled it, making it seem irrelevant on a global stage. This bizarrely has turned Dundee and those like him into national heroes. These unacceptable acts of destruction perpetrated against our cultural identity have left a subconscious mark and a wound on the awareness of Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s importance, relevance and potential to influence and lead the way on the global stage of human artistic, cultural and philosophical development. My works aim to directly counter that and to show that we can be, and probably are, the most relevant, evolving cultural identity with the power to lead the evolution of artistic, cultural and social development of humankind globally. We must understand this, and we must act upon these understandings.
Image: Saidin Salkic, Riding a Wombat on the Beach, digital painting
Saidin Salkic (Mido) was born in Srebrenica, Bosnia, the town of the greatest genocide in Europe since the Holocaust. During the genocide Saidin lost many of his family members, including his father. After surviving the genocide and migrating to Australia, inspired by his experience, Saidin has become one of the most prolific artists of his generation, with many highly praised avantgarde, revolutionary films, numerous solo art exhibitions, permanent public art installations, music and published writings to his name. He has been featured in a large number of media outlets across the world, including SBS World News, SBS On Demand, CNN Balkans and many others. He works and lives in Melbourne, Australia.
Image: Saidin Salkic, With Ned Kelly in Paris, digital painting
Curator’s Essay Home is a place. Home is a feeling. “Home is a very personal space,” says Dr Dacchi Dang, and for every person, home means something different. The HOME Exhibition explores the concept of home through the eyes of artists who have lived experience or deeply understand what it means to flee your home. This exhibition is an opportunity for artists to, as Elham Eshraghian writes, “unveil their story that should never be silenced”. It also offers artists the opportunity to create work to “externalise and process those feelings” as Mastaneh Azarnia says. The artists participating in HOME 2020 each have unique stories to share through their work, both their hardships and triumphs. As Humaira Fayazi writes, many who flee and contemplate leaving their homes, “wait… for their chance to start a new life in peace. When this happens they will blossom again. For they learned how to be strong and never gave up”. For some of the artists, the memories and stories of their plight are still at the fore, whether months, years or decades have passed, and for others, their home has always been here in Australia, tethering generational roots to this new place and adding a new dimension to the feeling of home.
“And although our hearts ache for what once was and for what could have been, we’ve learnt to forge new paths and new lives in a foreign place we now call home.” –Mirela Cufurovic
The HOME Exhibition exists as a platform to share these stories and artworks, to celebrate our diversity and the overcoming of adversity. The works and stories in this exhibition invite viewers to engage with these different and important perspectives. It aims to encourage us all to think about what makes a home and what we as a community can do to support those rebuilding their lives. Creativity and culture are an important way to celebrate, explore and understand the importance of diversity and HOME nurtures and encourages this. As artist Saidin Salkic writes, “Art has a great responsibility in evolving the cultural identity of an individual and collective consciousness”. Art is a way for us all to share our deepest thoughts, our wishes, hopes and challenges. Art is a way for audiences and the community to understand, to see with different eyes, to appreciate. Australia has a very long and rich cultural history and fabric that continues to expand and thrive. HOME is a celebration of this and of the artists weaving strong new threads into this fabric. Esther Gyorki, HOME Exhibition Curator
Visit the virtual exhibition at greaterdandenong.com/home Thank you to: Nadia Niaz, Editor Nadia worked closely with each artist to develop the texts in this publication. Nadia Niaz is the founder and editor of the Australia Council funded Australian Multilingual Writing Project, an online journal publishing creative writing that mixes two or more languages. She received her PhD in Creative Writing and Cultural Studies from the University of Melbourne where she teaches in the Creative Writing Program. Nadia researches and lectures on multilingual creative and poetic expression, the practicalities and politics of translation, and language use among Third Culture Kids and other globally mobile cohorts. She also writes and performs poetry that explores questions of identity, belonging, and language. Her most recent work can be found in The Polyglot, Not Very Quiet, Rabbit, and Peril. She has been a Wheeler Centre fellow and a commissioned poet for the School of Anatomy, University of Melbourne’s Body Donation program’s annual thanksgiving service. Nadia enjoys working collaboratively with other poets and artists. Thanks also to: IKEA Springvale, Exhibition Sponsor Published by the City of Greater Dandenong Council
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HOME 2020 is proudly supported by IKEA Springvale
Humaira Fayazi, Being Strong Despite Pressure, clay.