During Refugee Week, 16th-23rd June, Brunswick Uniting Church was privileged to host the works of Naser, an artist in detention, supported by Melbourne Artists for Asylum Seekers, Migrant Mothers from the Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre and Johnny Salameh, winner of the Judges Prize at the Sacred Edge Festival in Queenscliff for his installation ‘Dictator’.
On World Refugee Day, Thursday 20th June, the exhibition of these works featured in a special event at the church. Ann Soo, convenor of the BUC Arts committee offered these words of welcome …
June 20 is World Refugee Day, a day the world commemorates the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees. Held every year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for us, the public to stand alongside and show support for individuals and families forced to flee war or persecution.
As the number of people forced to flee their homes continues to grow, it is the world’s poorest countries that are shouldering much of the responsibility. Meanwhile, the global response to large-scale movements of people remains inadequate and underfunded, leaving people with an uncertain future. It makes all of us feel uncertain and powerless and at the same time bewildered and angry about what we can do to help.
So, on a day like today perhaps it is holding both that sense of uncertainty and need to act but also remembering that when we stand together, we can all make a difference. A difference by advocating, educating, celebrating contributions, doing something positive such as being here this evening, and reflecting on how we as a community are providing for those of us who have experienced displacement and dislocation at its worst. Most importantly, refugee week is about the opportunity for people to be seen, listened to and valued.
Tonight, we have the opportunity to listen to the voices and stories of artists about their experiences and journeys through these amazing art works. I would like to firstly thank each of them for sharing their work with us and allowing themselves to be seen and I hope we can honour them by looking carefully and listening deeply to what is being shared. We also have the opportunity to respond to those works and we invite you to do that through word or in a simple image. Without the support of MAFA the evening is not possible. My thanks to the collective for their inspiration, strong advocacy in building capacity and skills, privileging art and relentlessly driving art to be a means of social activism.
Without further ado and words from me, let us immerse ourselves in being part of this common circle and breathe in these works in its many forms. I encourage us to take all the time you need and from that place respond as you feel moved to the works.
Thank you, Ann Soo
See also from Ian Ferguson …
Why should we care about refugees?
Please open your heart and the door of this cage. …
View Naser’s works and their stories here.
Dictator won the Judges Prize at the Sacred Edge Festival in Queenscliff, May 2019.
More photos and a recording of a conversation about the work between Johnny and Ian here.