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HARMONY ART COLLECTIVE EXHIBITION OPENS IN SYDNEY 15 MARCH

More than 300 young people from across the country, many newly arrived to Australia, have taken part in an innovative national art project called the Harmony Art Collective, which has seen them come together to create a collection of large scale murals expressing their unique stories, self-identity and cultural heritage.

The initiative, a collaboration between Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), the Department of Social Services (DSS) and aMBUSH Gallery, saw four leading Australian street artists deliver a series of eight workshops across Australia over the last 12 months. The project will culminate with a public exhibition of the works in Sydney, to coincide with Harmony Day, at Darling Quarter’s OPEN from 15 March – 25 April 2017.

Young people who took part in the project included migrants from a range of countries, including Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Iraq, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Kagi, a 23-year-old South Sudanese former refugee who lives in Forest Lake, Queensland moved to Australia with her sisters in 2015, and took part in a workshop in Inala.

Since moving to Australia she has begun to use art as a way to express herself, and says the project has been a huge help to her, allowing her to address some of the displacement issues she felt.

“I had never thought I could express so much through art. My experience with art has been empowering, therapeutic and exhilarating. The workshop has allowed me to see that I can create beautiful things that have real meaning,” Kagi said.

The four artists involved are known for their diverse and individually outstanding urban art works: contemporary artist Brad Eastman (aka Beastman), self-taught multi-layered stenciller Regan Tamanui (aka Haha), kaleidoscopic Pop Art, mash-up artist Ben Frost, and criminal lawyer turned urban art-maker Kaff-eine. Between them, they ran workshops with local community centres in Darwin (NT), Hume (VIC), West Croydon (SA), Inala (QLD), Bankstown (NSW), Wollongong (NSW), Hobart (TAS) and during the Garma Festival in August 2016 (NT).

Kaff-eine, Street Artist, said: “We aren’t trying to solve everyone’s problems through art, but I can paint and show these young Australians what a mechanism for progress street art can be. Planting the seed is what we are doing so generations to come can reap the benefits.”

Senator the Hon Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, said: “Australia’s cultural diversity is one of our greatest assets. The Australian Government is committed to supporting a productive, harmonious and diverse society for all citizens.  This includes our work to improve the well-being of migrants and refugees settling here.”

“Through this collaboration we hope to encourage young migrants to share and inspire others with their cultures, drive a deeper connection with community, and promote cultural understanding,” Mr Seselja said.

Clare O’Neil, Director of Corporate Affairs, SBS said: “We’re incredibly proud to be a part of the Harmony Art Collective. It’s fantastic to see how hundreds of young Australians from all over the world have been able to express their cultural identity and their sense of belonging to their new country through the project. The exhibition is a great opportunity to share these important stories, and for people to learn more about the experiences of young migrants who call Australia home.”

Bill Dimas, Director, aMBUSH Gallery, said: “The project has been a great platform to inspire positive discussions about identity and belonging in young people.  Those participating have really flourished under the mentorship of the project’s artistic role models by exploring and uncovering their own talents and skills.  We hope the public exhibition of their work will be a catalyst for further discussion about the benefits of diversity in Australia,” he said.

SBS has also created a new online learning resource which will enable schools and community centres to run their own workshops. The resource is produced by SBS Learn and is available on their website (http://www.sbs.com.au/learn).

The Harmony Art Collective exhibition will be officially opened by Senator the Hon Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs on 14 March at Monkey Baa Theatre Company, Darling Quarter.

What: Harmony Art Collective
Where: OPEN at Darling Quarter, Sydney
When: Wednesday, 15 March – Tuesday, 25 April, 2017
Price: FREE