An exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) in January seeks to create a more nuanced narrative about contemporary migration and displacement by portraying the issue through the eyes of diverse artists.
Settlement Services International (SSI) curated “Motherland – Exile/Refuge – Migration (repeat)”, an exhibition presented in partnership with ANMM, January 6–26, 2021.
The exhibition 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.
Exhibits 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.
Among the exhibits are:
- “Nowhere, Now Here”, a documentation of a performance from Colombian-born interdisciplinary performance artist Carlos Agamez, exploring the escalating situation of refugees in the world
- “Finding Your Feet”, a community arts project facilitated by Sayd Abdali and Nasaphah Nasaphah, refugee artists from Afghanistan, and Jane Théau, an artist from Sydney
- Iraqi-born artist Hedar Abadi’s 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,” she said.
“This process can be an incessant tide shaping our human story of shifting identity and place-making.”
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,” she 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.”
Visual artist Maher Al Khoury 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.
Exhibition dates: Every day including public holidays, until January 26, 2021
Exhibition opening times: 9:30 am to 5 pm
Location: Australian National Maritime Museum, 2 Murray St, Sydney NSW 2000