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 


#ICAMEBYBOAT campaign humanizing asylum seekers in Australia

Liberal political rhetoric uses their stance against people-smugglers to justify their policy against humanity.

We’ve heard the prime minister word-slay the actions of the ‘people-smugglers who are preying on vulnerable people,’ with no mention of their own unwillingness to help them.

Blanka Dudas, has had enough. After fleeing her own home at the age of 19, during the Balkan wars, she has successfully built a life for herself as an Australian migrant for over 20 years.

Blanka Dudas, behind the scenes at the #ICAMEBYBOAT campaign shoot.

Blanka, a professional make-up artist, is the driving force behind the soon to be launched #ICAMEBYBOAT campaign, along with photographer Lucas Allen.

“I’m doing it because I feel like the mainstream media and politics here have done their best to dehumanize asylum seekers and refugees. I was a refugee myself and I can sort of put myself in their shoes. We need to try and humanize these people again, and say ‘hey these are people just like us’.” Blanka told YR in an interview.

#ICAMEBYBOAT has so far raised over 75K through the local crowdfunding platform Chuffed, with an expected launch in April 2016. You will soon see beautifully designed posters pasted across Melbourne alongside a gallery exhibition, featuring photographs of integrated asylum seekers, by photographer Lucas Allen.

fern high res

“[I thought] if we photograph them and put part of their story on the poster to show that they are people living here, they are working here, they are sending their kids to school. They are basically just like us except they had the misfortune of being born in an area that is really troubled.” She says.

The campaign has received a barrage of attention from individuals and media, even the likes of AJ+ made a campaign video.


And it’s been endoresed by none other than vocal Greens leader, Adam Bandt.



But Blanka says she’s not just preaching to the choir. Her designs have a specific target.

“I thought that the more minimal the posters, the more official they look, the more likely they will get the attention of the people who actually think asylum seekers are a problem.”

“We have tried to stay away from the political debate, we want to present it as a humanitarian case.”

The message is simple.

“There is no argument about this, these are people and they need help, and once they are given help, they are contributing and they are making Australia better.”

There are hundreds of thousands of displaced people around the world and with globalization becoming more than just an online reality, the politics of seeking asylum needs to change.

“I saw a campaign in the UK called ‘I am an immigrant’ and I thought that something positive is really needed at this point [here in Australia].

Behind the scenes at the #ICAMEBYBOAT campaign shoot. Source Blanka Dudas

Sourcing individuals to feature in the campaign has been the biggest hurdle.

“I did think that part would be easier. I thought getting funding would be difficult… People have suffered a lot so they’re not really that keen to be telling their story, they just want to forget about it and move on.”

“We printed out flyers on the weekend and we went to Dandenong. My little boy, my four year old, was handing out flyers. My little activist!… I guess he’s the cutest one so people cant refuse him.”

“This weekend we’ll probably go to Footscray and do the same. We’re trying to find diverse suburbs where we will hopefully find people who might want to join us.” She says.

Behind the scenes at the #ICAMEBYBOAT campaign shoot. Source Blanka Dudas

As the interest grows, so do the number of participants, but they are always looking for more brave people to join.

“We are hoping to get more women, as we have quiet a lot of men. We’ve got people from Vietnam, Hazaras from Iran, someone from Iraq and Sri Lanka. It would be great to have more diversity, people from African countries, Burma, Pakistan.” She says.

Behind the scenes at the #ICAMEBYBOAT campaign shoot. Source Blanka Dudas

Having raised so much money through crowdfunding Blanka says she determined to make this project the best it can possibly be.

“It has fully taken up all of my time, my son walks around the house saying, I came by boat, I came by boat.” She smiles and continues, “[but] I have met some amazing people through it and if it makes one bit of difference then it was worth it.”

If you are interested in donating to the campaign you can do so here.











Should they stay or should they go?

The City of Yarra has been a Refugee Welcome Zone since 2002 and the City prides itself as one of the first local governments to join this initiative.
A Refugee Welcome Zone is a Local Government Area, which has made a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into the community, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion for refugees and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in the community. The Yarra Council adopted its Refugee and Asylum Seeker Statement in 2005, which outlines Yarra’s commitment to a respectful and compassionate approach to asylum seekers.
With the recent campaign around the 37 children that used the #LetThemStay hastag, we wondered what people thought. Through our twitter account we conducted a straw poll and asked people to vote as to whether the asylum seekers should:
A ) be sent back to Nauru
B) processed here in Australia
Perhaps it reflects the compassion of Australians that not one person voted to send them back. Indeed it was a small sample but …. Not one…
Keep an eye out for future YR Straw Polls and have your say.