Bamiyarra is a project that grew out of the second iteration of Home Lands, a project that began around 2007 to connect young people from refugee backgrounds to their home lands and separated communities. Bamiyarra was launched at an informal dinner at Signal on Friday, 18 November.
Home Lands version one took us to the Karen refugee camps on Thai – Burma border and the slums of Nairobi where Sudanese who had come from one of the largest refugee camps in Kenya, known as Kakuma, were desperate to find a new life for themselves.
In 2011 we came to meet the Hazara, the most persecuted minority in Afghanistan, 18,000 of whom live in and around Melbourne and hundreds more in detention centres around the country waiting, often in appalling and shame-full conditions, for their claims for asylum to be processed.
We are fortunate to be working now with a core team of young Hazara, both in Melbourne and abroad, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, collaborating first up on a series of short format documentaries, or micro-docs. Documentary production training and capacity building is being run in collaboration with Youthworx Media in association with Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV) and led by trainer / producers Penne Thornton and more recently Naina Sen.
The micro-docs explore the complex issue of how cultural traditions are maintained, or transformed for that matter, in a new country. They will be screened as part of MAV’s Emerge Festival in June 2012 in both the city of Melbourne and Dandenong.
We will go on from these micro-docs to work with video installation artist, Yandell Walton, to produce an installation on the Yarra in August 2012, hopefully just opposite Signal, or between Federation Square and the Botanical Gardens. This will coincide with another mentored project with photographer and media artist, Werner Hammerstingl, which will result in an exhibition that will take place concurrently at Signal.
Other artists we hope to work with include animator and projection artist Lindsay Cox and Naina Sen, also a deft hand at projections, keen to explore others ways we may work together.
We are learning a great deal from each other… we are investigating the nuances that make us different and yet not so different at all. We are collaborating on a range of projects that will provide our team with opportunities not only within the media arts, but to also improve our understanding of them, the origins and culture, and we may just find ways to create a better life for ourselves in what the Hazara describe as their golden age – perhaps it’s ours as well, a collective golden age where people from all over the planet discover and enrich each other with what they bring to the garden and what they share from it.
When I refer to “we”, there are numerous organisations and individuals who have supported and resourced Home Lands, and now Bamiyarra. Home Lands v2 is a collaboration between La Trobe University, City of Melbourne, Cultural Development Network and Youthworx Media in association with Multicultural Arts Victoria. Home Lands is funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, City of Melbourne and the Cultural Development Network.
Thanks also to Signal for their efforts on that special Friday evening, Lyndall from the Cultural Development Network and Farkhonda who worked with me on our event and the lovely, inspiring folks at Viola Design who threw all their creative might into producing new artwork for Bamiyarra, logos and style guides, in record time… and of course, our main players, my friends and teachers, Ahmadi, Zia, Habib, Najib, Anisa, Sahema, Farkhona, Ramzan, Murtaza who could not be with us today, and Kobra! And our friends in Afghanistan and Pakistan Javed, Malek, Muzafar…
A very special thank you to the gracious Khair Ali who played damboora and sang for us that fine evening. It was an honour.