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14 Feb 2017


Bird themes prompt stories from Auburn’s multicultural community

A collection of photos from the Sweet Auburn Tweets book launch.

The launch of the book, Sweet Auburn Tweets, was celebrated in December, when participating families — from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nepal and South Sudan — each received a copy.

The partnership began in 2015 when the Family Creative Hub worked with families from the ADSi multicultural playgroup and developed art and craft workshops focused on traditional nursery rhymes. That led to a small collection of lullabies called Auburn Twinkles, produced by Eddie Abd.

Following the success of Auburn Twinkles, it was decided to run the project again in 2016 with a new group of families. Workshops were held at ADSi in August and September.

The team was composed of visual artist Marian Abboud, storyteller and facilitator Nisha Shrestha, acting Producer for Family Creative Hub Yamane Fayed, and playgroup staff.

The sessions’ format was similar to a playgroup but explored the theme of migration through reference to migrating birds and the symbolic meaning of birds from the participants’ cultural backgrounds.

The children and their parents or carers (mostly mothers and grandmothers) created the artworks with Ms Shrestha and used traditional designs to decorate the crafts. Then Ms Abboud conducted Photoshop workshops so the group could digitally incorporate their designs into photographs.

With the help of a designer (Ms Abd) they added the variety of languages spoken by the participants and produced Sweet Auburn Tweets, a beautiful collection of art, poems and songs inspired by the families’ own experiences, interests, stories and traditions.

Ms Fayed said, “It was enriching for all of us, participants as well as facilitators, as we learned about each other’s cultural background. We found differences but also so many similarities.

“We worked with the mothers and grandmothers on traditional songs that referenced birds in their own languages and we found out that some words in some languages like Urdu and Arabic, or Hindi and Nepalese, were very similar.

“Of course, we know languages are connected and have evolved from different main language roots but it was fascinating for the families to realise that we are so much alike, whether we lived originally in the Middle East or in the Indian subcontinent.

“The families shared very precious memories of their lives back in their homeland and we cherished that wealth of knowledge.”

She said it was possible to see in the book how happy everyone was to share their songs.

“The whole process was very interesting — funny at times and a bit more emotional when people were reminiscing on bittersweet memories,” she said.

ICE is a western Sydney community arts organisation working in the areas of cultural development, screen culture and digital technology.

The ICE Family Creative Hub is a free creative program for newly arrived refugee and migrant families with preschool children living in and around Parramatta. It is part of the National Community Hubs Program funded by the Scanlon Foundation with funding from the Department of Social Services received through Community Hubs Australia and managed by Settlement Services International.

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