Convent Conversations: Art as Agency
There is considerable media attention on asylum seekers coming to Australia and their treatment in offshore detention, yet we rarely hear about the reality for asylum seekers living in Australia on temporary visas. This engaging panel will discuss cultural collaborations with artists, writers and performers that give a voice to asylum seekers and refugees. The speakers will explore how art and other creative practices can improve the lived existence of asylum seekers both in detention and the community, and how non-refugees are working with asylum seekers to provide a platform for marginalised voices.
Arad Nik is a writer, poet and microbiologist from Ahwaz, Iran. His poetic and literary work was mostly hidden whilst in Iran. Like many poets from the Ahwazi Arabic minority his work was outlawed. He is now seeking asylum in Australia. He has presented his work in Melbourne, Castlemaine, Daylesford and Sydney. He is currently completing a book of short stories to be published in 2017.
Azizeh Kh. Astaneh is an artist, former art critic and an asylum seeker living in Melbourne. She is the founding president of Melbourne Artists For Asylum. Since 2014 she has curated three art exhibitions featuring works by detained and community-based asylum seekers and artists living in Melbourne.
Azja Kulpińska is a community cultural development worker, educator and Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner. She has been a supporter of RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees and is currently co-facilitating a Forum Theatre project – a collaboration between RISE and Melbourne Polytechnic that explores challenging narratives around migration, settlement and systems of oppression. She is also a youth worker facilitating a support group for young queer people in rural areas.
Janet Gailbraith is a poet and coordinator of Writing Through Fences – an online writing group of 100 asylum seekers in mainland and offshore immigration detention centres. She is also a founding member of Researchers Against Pacific Black sites and the author of 'Re-membering,' a collection of poetry published by Walleah Press, 2013.
Dr Margaret Mayhew is an artist and academic who has taught art classes for asylum seekers in detention as part of Melbourne Artists for Asylum. Her research on cross-cultural creative practices as a mode of knowledge generation has been published as chapters in the 'Para-academic Handbook' and 'Material Inventions'. She is the author of a forthcoming book: 'Looking At Life Drawing'.
Convent Conversations is a winter talks series presented by the Abbotsford Convent Foundation. Featuring a panel of speakers, audience members are invited to engage in important discussions about sustainability, politics, gender, health and more.