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Art exhibition explores stories of displacement, migration in Australia

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art exhibition Migration 2016 by Hedar Abadi

An art exhibition curated by Settlement Services International (SSI) seeks to create a more nuanced narrative about contemporary migration and displacement by portraying the issue through the eyes of diverse artists.

Titled “Motherland – Exile/Refuge – Migration (repeat)”, the exhibition will be available for viewing at the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) until January 26, 2021 and features 14 artists from First Nations, refugee and migrant backgrounds, exploring views and experiences of displacement, migration and settlement. It runs concurrently with the Sydney Festival event A Mile in My Shoes, also presented by the Maritime Museum and supported by SSI.

Featured works vary in style from a virtual reality experience to painting and photography – all raising important questions about belonging, identity and forced and voluntary human movement.

One of the artists in the exhibition is visual artist Maher Al Khoury, who arrived in Australia seeking asylum from Syria four years ago. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1988, he had a dynamic arts career working across the Middle East as a university lecturer and artist, with exhibitions in Syria and Abu Dhabi.

His new work commissioned for this exhibition, “Ground Zero”, tells the story of his journey as an artist losing everything due to the destruction of his homeland and arriving in Australia in search of visions of hope for a new future for himself and his family.

“War not only destroys cities and towns and objects of beauty, war defaces humanity. The effects of war can leave a person feeling empty. Art is a way out of that emptiness,” he said.

The art exhibition will also feature “Nowhere, Now Here” by Carlos Agamez, a documentation of a performance from Colombian-born interdisciplinary performance artist Carlos Agamez, exploring the escalating situation of refugees in the world.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan refugee artists Nasaphah Nasaphah and Sydney artist Jane Theau will present “Finding Your Feet” while Iraqi-born artist Hedar Abadi will present his work commenting on the human tragedies and fragility of those fleeing persecution

Co-curator and producer Laura Luna, from the SSI Arts & Culture team said the exhibition embodied the many facets and layers of migration and displacement stemming from the lived experiences of the featured artists, whether refugees, people seeking asylum or voices from First Nations communities.

“The forces that drive migration are sometimes natural, but mostly they are man-made: armed conflicts, climate change, weapons of mass destruction, political and social unrest, discrimination, persecution, war,” Luna said.

“This process can be an incessant tide shaping our human story of shifting identity and place-making,” she said.

Meanwhile, co-curator Nazanin Marashian said the intention of the exhibition was to invite audiences to pause and reflect on the nature and experience of migration.

“The exhibition raises many fundamental questions about how migration continues to shape our vision of what being Australian looks like,” Marashian said.

“There is poetry in each of the works that speaks about the many layers of trauma embedded within individual as well as collective experiences of displacement,” she said.

The exhibition is free of charge and will be open every day including public holidays from 9:30 AM to 5 PM.

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