Arts recognise local Aboriginal history

This month a collection of indigenous performers and artists are coming together for Smith Street Dreaming as part of the annual Leaps and Bound Music festival.

Smith Street Dreaming 2017 is the biggest street celebration of the iconic thoroughfare’s Koorie history. The festival brings diverse groups of people to the suburbs of Collingwood and Fitzroy to recognise indigenous culture, the local Wurundjeri people, and its aboriginal community.

The free event will host some of the country’s best indigenous talent featuring live performances from Frank Yamma, Emma Donovan, Yung Warriors, Indigenous Hip Hop Projects, traditional dancers  Jindi Worabak and MC Shelley Ware.

The project is part of the Smith Street Working Group that, according to organisers, aims to build and celebrate better relationships between Yarra Council residents, workers and visitors to Smith Street by fostering understanding, respect and peace between all.

Members of the Smith Street Working Group include Aboriginal elders, indigenous community members, Victoria’s Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC), Yarra City Council, Victoria Police, the Salvation Army, Co-Health, Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee, Smith Street Business Association, Eastern Health, Melbourne Aboriginal Youth Sport and Recreation Co-Operative (MAYSAR) and restaurant Charcoal Lane.

The event was initiated when The Neighbourhood Justice Centre collaborated with Aboriginal elders, police and traders to discuss the complex issues of social inclusion, cultural respect, safety and diversity, which eventually lead to the formation of the Smith Street working group. Members of the working group realised they all wanted the same thing, and the indigenous music festival was born.

On the Smith Street Dreaming report NJC project officer, Maree Foelz, describes Smith Street Dreaming as “a fantastic event which helped build better relationships between the various communities that visit, live, work and gather on and around Smith Street,” which also encouraged her, personally, to “embrace the opportunity to learn from being part of the Smith Street Working Group.”

Rebecca Langley, lead activist in the community’s  Everything Advisory Group, this year is working with MAYSAR on a project for Smith Street Dreaming. With the focus of the event being reconciliation, respect and fairness, she believes that this will help show the broader community the importance of indigenous history to the area and the ability to connect with it.

To Amnesty International, she said: “I believe that Reconciliation Action Plans are a great opportunity to decolonise our work spaces by acknowledging and acting to change the part we play in the ongoing oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Smith Street Dreaming aims to bring together indigenous and non-indigenous community members to reconcile.

Image of Archie Roach at Smith Street Dreaming 2015, Photo: Antony Ket

In an interview for the Yarra Council’s history project, Archie Roach, indigenous Australian singer explained the importance of Fitzroy as a meeting place for Aboriginals.

“There was more to it than drinking. If people just saw it on the outside, you know, they’d just think, oh, a couple of old or young Koori people drinking in a pack, or whatever, vacant lot, vacant area – but it was more than that. That’s where I learned my history brother, from those areas, because all the old fellas, they knew more about me than I did, mate.”

Those who gather in Smith Street are referred to as “Parkies”, being mostly Aboriginal people who have long gathered on Smith Street. The ‘community of the Parkies’ has been fundamental for the passing on of Aboriginal stories and history according to the Smith Street Dreaming report.

Indigenous Hip Hop Project performer at Smith Street Dreaming 2016. Photo: Tony Proudfoot

The Indigenous Hip Hop Project team has experience in performing in events focusing on inclusiveness and recognition especially surrounding this particular event.

“The indigenous Hip hop Project team has [had] interactive performances running for 10 years … most performing in remote Aboriginal communities as well as everywhere around Australia,” said managing director, Michael Farah.

Having been involved in the Leaps and Bound music festival, the group realised the importance of hosting events like this giving them the platform to express themselves and perform.

“Dance performances for the event showcase more art going to hip hop [and therefore is] trying to get everyone [at the event] involved,” he said.

“Everyone is attached to music, most performances come with music and culturally it is about music and dance. Stories are told through traditional instrument[s] and also done through movement which is the best way to showcase because culturally, nothing is written down.”

He then went on to explain the ‘dreaming’ aspect of the festival and the importance of it.

“Everything is a story and [is] about dreaming … dreaming is sitting down listening to elders. This festival is bringing all that to the table. It is crucial to modern-day society when talking about bridging the gap and reconciliation.”

Smith Street Dreaming 2017 is taking place on the corner of Smith Street and Stanley Street, Collingwood, from 1pm-5pm, on Saturday, July 22.

For details go to Leaps and Bound Music festival website leapsandboundsmusicfestival.com.

Written by Zathia Bazeer

Emerging Melbourne artists are coming together for a 10 day cultural festival in the Yarra

This month a collection of refugee and culturally diverse artists and performers are coming together for the annual Emerge in Yarra festival.

Thanks to Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV), as part of the Community Cultural Development (CCD) program for “culturally and linguistically diverse emerging and refugee artists and communities in Victoria” a plethora of cultural talents will be showcased in the City of Yarra.

This year’s Emerge in Yarra festival will present 10 events over 10 days and will include a delicious array of cultural food, amazing performances, and enriching cultural experiences; expect language lessons along with innovative musical experiences. There really is something for everyone.

Event organiser Frejya MacFarlane has experienced the enriching culture surrounding Emerge. Having been involved in several MAV events over the past couple of years, she expresses the importance of hosting events like Emerge in Yarra festival.

“It’s all about developing relationships with emerging refugee communities and giving them a platform to be more involved in the arts and developing programs,” she said.

Emerge artists and performers hail from all walks of life, each with a story to share with their Yarra community. Neda Rahmani is a seasoned professional performer and has been involved with MAV since around 1999.

This year Neda is heading up her favourite festival session: Cookin’ up Community, held at the Collingwood Community Kitchen on Tuesday, July 4, at 7.30 pm. Cookin’ up Community unites a cultural cooking experience with music, songs, and stories from distant homelands.

In a collaboration like no other, the Cookin’ up Community session will blend the Iran/Persian culinary roots of  Neda Rahmani with Saba Alemayoh’s East African cuisine, to represent the unique meals passed down from their mothers.

“My cuisine is a great mélange of different flavours and I can’t wait to see what happens when we put each other’s dishes side by side,” Neda said.

“We all have to eat. We all share that human need to nourish and I think people are interested in learning something new and witnessing something new,” she said.

This year’s Emerge in Yarra festival is bringing about the importance of welcoming and learning about new cultures that live right around us.

Art by I-Yen (Molly). Photo: Emerge.

Molly Chen, a new visual artist on the Emerge scene is particularly excited to showcase her collaboration with Yumemi Hiraki at The Ownership Project in Fitzroy. Their exhibit will showcase spatial installations in a “home setting” and elevate the discussion of history surrounding their blend of Taiwanese (Molly) and Japanese (Yumemi) backgrounds.

“It’s a very storytelling exhibition and I expect everyone to come and find it very playful, funny and delightful, but at the same time have a strong feeling surrounding discussion about the trauma and the history in our show,” Miss Chen said.

With a medium cultivated by the artists and their cultural values, Emerge in Yarra will be the ultimate cultural experience for 2017. The 10-day festival will bring forth stories of courage, and events that serve a strong purpose in bringing the community together.

For a full list of programs occurring in Emerge in Yarra 2017, click here.

Written by Grace Evans 

 

Submissions for Emerge 2017 are coming to a close

Call outs to get involved in the City of Yarra’s most inclusive celebration of multicultural arts and music, Emerge 2017, are coming to a close this Friday.

Created in 2004, in conjunction with Multicultural Arts Victoria’s (MAV) Visible Music Mentoring Program, Emerge 2017 started out as a humble arts festival and has grown into an all-encompassing series of art and music events taking place across the Yarra for one week at the end of June.

Emerge 2017 welcomes innovative music and art submissions from artists in the Yarra and provides an outstanding opportunity for newly arrived refugees and emerging communities to get involved in telling their stories and connecting with the community.

We spoke to Joel Ma, one of the creative producers, about all that is coming from this year’s event.

“It’s about opening up communities and neighbourhoods to the multicultural personalities and diversity that is around them and we often take for granted… and within that is this rich amount of human story and experience that we can all benefit from and embrace,” he said.

Cookin’ Up Community with South Sudanese spoken word poet Abe Nouk and South Sudanese singer Ajak Kwai (held at the Fitzroy Community Kitchen). Photo: James Henry Photography

“MAV gravitates towards innovative ideas and artistic pursuits,” he says,“The other side of [Emerge 2017] is to create amazing art, for us it’s about finding artists within [the Yarra] who represent all groups… to come together and collaborate and try ideas out and connect with where they live now.”

Emerge 2017 is also pushing the boundaries of the mainstream music scene by challenging expectations of many mainstream musicians who are of the notion that multicultural arts and music can’t be separated from the traditional.

“From the music perspective, I’m very interested in the idea that multiculturalism includes more than just a traditional view of art or view of music. It can sometimes be engaged with traditional instruments, but that could be offset with electronics or contemporary music collaboration… And that is where you’ll find the most popular music of today,” said Joel.

With a philosophy of celebrating the positive contributions of newly arrived refugee groups, and embracing diverse art and music in the Yarra community, Emerge 2017 is definitely something we can get behind.

In its 13th year and thriving with strong connections to community leaders and cultural groups, Emerge 2017 is only expected to continue to cultivate its invaluable contribution to the community.

The submission deadline is 5 pm Friday the 5th of May, with all submissions going to Freja Macfarlane at freyja.macfarlane@multiculturalarts.com.au

Urban Campfires exhibition showcasing new art at NJC

The City of Yarra is home to a multitude of emerging and established artists, continually producing powerful and engaging bodies of work. And with the launch of the 2017 Urban Campfires exhibition at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood, many of these artists get the chance to tell their stories alongside each other.

Changing up every six months, the Urban Campfires exhibition calls for artworks produced by artists in Yarra to reflect the exciting diversity of the area, while simultaneously providing a great location for amateur and professional artists to showcase their work.

Community Engagement & Communications Coordinator at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC), Ann Strunks, says that many of the benefits of the exhibition are quite subtle.

“Urban Campfires may seem a crazy way to give people a say in justice,” she said, “but art is a very powerful form of communication, and it’s another way we listen to the heartbeat of Yarra.”

The NJC is a holistic justice centre, according to Strunks, where you will find a multi-jurisdictional court, treatment agencies, community-based crime prevention teams, defence and police prosecution teams.

“Our court goes a step further than the average Magistrates’ Court as we give people on the downward spiral of offending the treatment services and support they need to turn their lives around,” said Strunks.

In addition to the NJC’s commitment to solving the problems associated with criminal behaviour, the NJC openly supports everyone in the community. Urban Campfires is just one other way they are making Yarra a more welcoming and safe space.

“Over the years, newly arrived asylum seekers have shown incredibly moving work [for the Urban Campfires exhibition], exploring the search for home and peace, and people living under the shadow of Alzheimer’s have crafted work that’s explored how the mind works when thoughts are as ephemeral as butterflies,” Strunks said.

“And of course, a lot of artists create art that’s simply exuberant, particularly the children from local schools and playgroups. The NJC is probably the only court to display art made entirely of cotton buds, sparkles, and ice-cream sticks!” she said.

The 2017 exhibition launching in April is produced by BANH Inc., a community support service for the most disadvantaged in the City of Yarra.

Leading the exhibition is Curator Laila Costa, who is aiming to show artwork that really explores social justice issues.

“I am always on the lookout for edgy, kooky and envelope-pushing art,” she said.

Although the exhibition is going strong, with more than a couple of extraordinary past exhibitions, Costa would like to widen the scope to include more community engagement and experimental projects.

“There are so many possibilities to reach out and collaborate to make creative works that inspire, educate and increase well-being,” she said.

The NJC is Australia’s only community justice centre and is showing that this innovative way of tying community interests closely to a justice system is helping community members in a big way.

“I would like there to be many more Neighbourhood Justice Centres rolled out across the country as it deals with justice in a progressive and innovative manner. The data and statistics prove it works better than the traditional justice system and all sectors of community benefit,” Costa said.

To find out more about the Community Justice Model, head here. The NJC provides a ‘Reflections on Practice’ piece, which, the website says, will “explore the flexibility and transferability of community justice.”

To check out the Urban Campfires exhibition, head to the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood. The current exhibition will run for a further 6 months.

Written by Roxanne Fitzgerald.

Who run the world? Girls

That’s right as the queen herself Beyonce said, girls do run the world.

This year Last Minute Productions and Stayfly Sydney are hosting the movie screening of Girl Power, on February 24 at Grumpy’s Green in Fitzroy, the first documentary about the incredible lives of female graffiti and street artists around the world.

The film has been selected from thousands of applicants to be a part of the 19th SEOUL Women’s Film Festival, happening this year.

Following Czech graffiti artist and writer Sany, who decided in 2009 to capture female emancipation in graffiti on film, Girl Power presents stories from across the world encapsulating the successes and challenges of females who have dedicated their lives to graffiti and street art in a male-dominated community.

Last Minute Productions Music Coordinator Jurnan Thorn said, “Girl Power highlights and profiles women in the art formats of painting steel and street art.”

Miss Thorn connected with Sany when she came to Australia to film parts of Girl Power. In an effort to bring the documentary to Melbourne, Last Minute Productions and Stayfly Sydney stepped in to help.

Girl Power is set to open up the discussion surrounding graffiti being perceived as vandalism and the way graffiti has been portrayed as a male dominated art expression.

Street artist and owner of Juddy Roller, a creative street art and graffiti management company in Fitzroy, Shaun Hossack said, “Females are super important to the industry, but hugely underrepresented.”

When asked about Girl Power, Hossack said, “I think anything that presents woman as equal participants in any industry is going to be positive for everyone, and there’s obviously a movement happening and an awakening within people.”

If you’re all for equal representation, exceptional films and live music, Girl Power will not disappoint. The screening will also include live artists and performers such as Wonqi Rose ft Miss Money Toast and LADY LASH.

Head here to book your tickets for Girl Power.

Written by Grace Evans

A night of laughs with a serious message set to hit the City of Yarra

Timed to coincide with the controversial Australia Day holiday, a comedy gala is being held to raise awareness of what the date means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The Reconciliation Comedy Gala will be held at the Malthouse Theatre on 26 January, and will feature a number of comedy greats in the line-up.

Expected to run for around three hours, all of the funds from the show will go towards the City of Yarra’s Stolen Generations Marker Project.

According to Yarra City Council, the Marker Project aims to “honour the struggles of the Stolen Generations as well as acknowledge the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, communities, clans and groups who seek to heal from the past.” 

Aimed to be completed in November, the project will invite 5 artists to contribute design ideas intended to remind people of the impacts inflicted by past racist government actions on the Indigenous Australian people.

Malthouse Theatre Associate Producer Jason Tamiru said that “the Reconciliation Gala will feature a selection of Australia’s most prominent comedians, and promote recognition of Australia’s Stolen Generation.”

The bill will feature Australian comedy and music greats including MCs Uncle Jack Charles and Judith Lucy, along with Wil Anderson, Tom Ballard, Anne Edmonds, Hannah Gadsby, Tom Gleeson, Shiralee Hood, Kevin Kropinyeri, Bunna Lawrie, Perfect Tripod (Eddie Perfect and Tripod), Dane Simpson, Nelly Thomas, and The Koori Youth Will Shake Spears dance group.

In the comedy business for seven years, Australia’s Number One Female Aboriginal Comedian Shiralee Hood says it’s time to deepen the conversation surrounding Australia Day, and invite others to listen to the struggles experienced by the Stolen Generations.

As we begin to see a growing number of Australians recognising the sadness behind Australia Day, Ms Hood agrees that now is the perfect time to educate. Ms Hood said comedy has helped to establish a platform where people can discuss global and political issues light-heartedly.

“Comedy is a great form of observing the world and then expressing what we see in society,” she said.

Ms Hood has hope that we can all come together and acknowledge those families affected by the Stolen Generations.

“I feel privileged to be able to represent the Indigenous community and have a great platform to do so,” she said.

Ms Hood is looking forward to the gala, and invites everyone to get along to the Malthouse Theatre for a laugh and to listen to the show’s message.

The Reconciliation Comedy Gala will be held at the Malthouse Theatre on January 26 from 2:30 pm.

Check out the Malthouse Theatre website for further details on ticket sales and prices.

Written by Grace Evans

A day of contemporary art: four galleries and exhibitions to check out before the month ends

Melbourne is home to a plethora of innovative and exciting art exhibitions that are head-spinningly good. Clear a day in the up-coming week and spend it feeding the soul with creative expression, because these art exhibitions are coming to an end; and they are definitely not to be missed.

Start in Abbotsford at the convent, with a delicious vegetarian breakfast at Lentils as Anything. This will set you up for a day of contemporary art in the City of Yarra.

Tacit Gallery
Abbotsford

Make your way up Johnston street, and around 200m before Hoddle street, you’ll come across Tacit Gallery.

The space is a commercial gallery run by Keith Lawrence that generally exhibits excellent, though more traditional two-dimensional works by established artists. The diversity of colour, style, and medium in the current exhibitions makes for a fantastically varied narrative to walk through. Amongst other mediums, the current show consists of oils on linen, monoprints, collage, and drypoint. This is, Keith details, a tendency of the gallery’s shows, following the discovery that their patrons tend to prefer shows that prioritise this very quality of difference. The smoky, Munch and Hopper-esque oils that greet the gallery-goer extend to the next room of magpies and feathers, and contrast dramatically with Gallery 3’s outlined nudes. Colourful wooden collages – undeniably cubist in form – again contrast with Libby Burne’s misty, textured landscapes. This exhibition adheres with the gallery’s ‘prioritisation of the object’.

The current exhibitions are on until the 27th November

Noriko Nakamura's We weren't aware that you have been here all this time, 2016, in Gertrude Contemporary. Photo: Camilla Eustance
Noriko Nakamura’s We weren’t aware that you have been here all this time, 2016, Gertrude Contemporary. Photo: Camilla Eustance

Off the Kerb
Collingwood

Keep traversing up Johnston street, entering into Collingwood. Across the road from the famous Keith Haring mural, you’ll find Off the Kerb Gallery.

Founded by Shini Pararajasingham, Off the Kerb is primarily centred around illustrative, painted, and photographic works. In early December, they’ll feature the Melbourne Polytechnic BA of Illustration graduates in an exhibition titled ‘Kindling’. For now, the light-filled gallery is exhibiting four artists/illustrators. There is no underlying theme, but as with most shows at the gallery, the work coheres – through its illustrative or portrait-based nature. MITCH, whose popular work occupies the initial space, creates beautiful, stylised designs – much of them on wood panel – featuring long-haired, plant-laden, cosmic belles. Upstairs you’ll find Naomi Waller’s explorations in ink and geometric design, and a bright white room full of prints that poetically investigate the colours of childhood through depictions of quirky, pretty girls. Occasionally the gallery exhibits more conceptual work, like Ramak Bamzar’s ‘In Pain’, which are a series of arresting portrait photographs. This gallery, full of trendy, eye-catching work, is perfect for a lightly-caffeinated afternoon stroll – perhaps after stopping by Everyday Coffee on the street opposite.

The current exhibitions are on until the 24th November

Collingwood Gallery
Collingwood

Up and around the corner, Collingwood Gallery sits happily amidst the hipster bustle of Smith street.

The commercial gallery is aimed at a slightly older audience, but features exciting artwork accessible to just about anyone. Established in 2000, the gallery features but is not limited to painted and photographic work. Entering, you’ll find a long, cool room partitioned into two sections. Currently, Eric Henshall’s exhibition ‘Nepo Rab’ is on display. The bright, vivacious work is a visual and sociological pleasure. All of the works are night scenes from bars exclusively in the swing-town city of New Orleans, and are filled with keenly observed activity. The works are somewhat neo-expressionist in tone and dance around a moody burgundy colour scheme interspersed with the luminous green of a pool table, the electric blue of a Bud Lite can, or the red of a ketchup bottle. Outside of the art on its walls, Collingwood Gallery also offers Life Drawing classes on Wednesday.

Nepo Rab is on until the 24th November

Erich Henshall's Portrait of Aya, 2016, in Collingwood Gallery. Photo: Camilla Eustance
Erich Henshall’s Portrait of Aya, 2016, Collingwood Gallery. Photo: Camilla Eustance
MITCH's exhibition Twoism, 2016, in Off the Kerb Gallery. Photo: Camilla Eustance
MITCH’s exhibition Twoism, 2016, Off the Kerb Gallery. Photo: Camilla Eustance

Gertrude Contemporary
Fitzroy

Continue down Smith street and up the hill to Gertrude, where you’ll find Gertrude Contemporary.

The art gallery takes a conceptual leap after Collingwood gallery, but is best noted simply as evidence of just how wide the scope of contemporary art is. Supporting contemporary artists for over 30 years, the gallery is one of the artistic hot-spots of the Fitzroy area. The current show ‘Gertrude Studios’ exhibits some of the finest contemporary art practice and research that Melbourne has to offer. A pleasing mish-mash of objects and mediums command the space’s attention upon entering. One of the terrific qualities of the contemporary art is the freedom of medium, and the option to dematerialise entirely – something that all visits to Gertrude will demonstrate. The exhibition features textural abstracts, new media concerned with travel, technology, and the nature of art itself – as well as more performative works such as Hamishi Farah’s Statement of non-participation, Adelle Mills’ video work Family is a score, and Eric Demetriou’s Round Base: mysterious microphone in the middle of the space. To break up the whirring in your brain whilst you observe such art, why not blast out an anthem?

Gertrude Studios 2016 is open until the 10th December

By Camilla Eustance