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12 Jul 2018


New Beginnings Festival brings Inner West locals and new communities together to celebrate Refugee Week 2018


Captured are Inner West locals at the Spirit of Welcome event at the Community and Refugee Welcome Centre.

The New Beginnings Festival for Refugee Week is the first instalment of SSI’s 2018 New Beginnings Arts & Culture Festival — a refugee-led art exhibition showcased works that were created through a series of workshops.

Creative workshops were facilitated by artists from refugee backgrounds for newly arrived communities. Artist facilitators included Atefeh Hekmat and two other leading artists, Damon Amb and Majid Rabet. Click here to view an interview with the lead artist facilitators.

SSI New Beginnings Festival Producer Raphael Brasil said that the festival this year demonstrated how collaborative work and community engagement are key elements to building a sustainable and diverse arts community.

“With the Community and Refugee Welcome Centre being established as a new cultural and artistic hub in the Inner West, I am confident that we have achieved an important exchange between artists and newly arrived and local communities,” said Mr Brasil.

The festival launched with an intimate invite-only event marking World Refugee Day on June 20 and closed Open Inner West festival on June 24 at the Community and Refugee Welcome Centre in Callan Park. The two events brought together newly arrived refugees and Inner West locals for a celebration of creativity, arts and community.

Mr Brasil acknowledged the success of the work that had been done by the lead artist facilitators who not only ran the creative workshops but also curated the art exhibition that was comprised of works created by newly arrived artists.

“None of this would have been possible without the fantastic work led by Majid, Atefeh and Damon, and the leadership of people like the Centre Coordinator Moones Mansoubi and all the staff and volunteers involved from both SSI and Inner West Council.”

The Community and Refugee Welcome Centre Coordinator Moones Mansoubi said that the Centre is all about bringing communities together and that the SSI New Beginnings Festival provided an ample opportunity to do just that.

“We were honoured to host more than 300 people during Refugee Week; the festival brought artists, newcomers and locals together and reminded us that diversity is beautiful,” she said.

Ms Mansoubi said that the diversity of music, dance, short films and workshops created a thriving arts hub and is an excellent example of the successful collaboration between the Welcome Centre and SSI Arts and Culture program.

“It was a pleasant collaboration, I would like to acknowledge Inner West Council for supporting us throughout the workshops and the festival, and we look forward to celebrating Refugee Week with the New Beginnings Festival at the Welcome Centre in 2019.”

Some standout festival highlights included a performance from The Solidarity Choir that ignited a sense of collective consciousness in the room, and a traditional Assyrian performance by George Karm placed audiences in jovial spirits. Intricate creative workshops led by the Community Tapestry Workshop and Traditional Kite Making engaged participants in practical and meaningful ways.

 Workshop participants making kites.

Captured are workshop participants at the Opening Event of New Beginnings Festival.

The upcoming SSI New Beginnings Festival in Spring is a highlight event of the cultural program of the 2018 International Metropolis Conference.

Hosted in Sydney’s iconic Darling Harbour, this one-day arts and culture festival promotes the talents, vitality and diversity that people from refugee and migrant backgrounds bring to Australia’s creative sector. The outdoor festival will feature live music, dance performances, kids’ workshops and food and market stalls with an array of international cuisines and cultural handicrafts.

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