Artist Miriam Cabello’s long-held passion for collaborative community art and educational projects has seen her take on a unique mentoring opportunity for the New Beginnings: Refugee Arts & Culture Festival 2016.
Miriam’s initial interest in the New Beginnings festival was inspired two years ago when she attended Settlement Services International’s Art Is Our Voice exhibition, which featured artists from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.
“It was extremely inspirational for me,” she said “I was impressed by the initiative of Settlement Services International and some of the work just spoke to me.”
Miriam was particularly struck by the parallels between the etchings that artist Victor Youssef produced and the copper work that is popular in her native Chile.
“Even though we are from different countries and have different backgrounds and experiences, he was working in copper and had created a work of Madonna and child that was very similar to the themes and techniques that Chilean artists work with,” said Miriam, who is the curator at the MLC Design Studio and Art Gallery.
“That demonstrated to me the significance and power of these kinds of exhibitions to not only move us but also to reveal the cultural bonds that unit us.”
Fast forward two years and Miriam is now in the process of mentoring 10 artists from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds while they create works for the New Beginnings Art Exhibition at the Chrissie Cotter Gallery in Camperdown from 17–26 June.
“I want to keep my curatorial meaning (which is part of the MLC Gallery mission) alive by continuing to devote my energy and focus to history projects that unearth forgotten stories,” she said. “These artists are going to have so much to tell us with this new project and that‘s what I’m looking forward to."
For Miriam, there is also a personal connection to the journeys of these artists.
“My parents migrated here before the Chilean military coup, so I understand the shared experience of leaving your home, your friends and everything behind, and being here in a country with no-one but your core family,” she said.
Miriam will work with the artists to create works that reflect the theme, ‘New Beginnings’, with the goal of helping the artists to express their experiences, culture and history in a new way.
“I want them to challenge themselves and create something new. I will be introducing allegory, colour symbolism and iconography to the artists, and the reason I want the theme to incorporate allegory is that it is a very important tool to communicate symbolically a deeper meaning, whether it’s spiritual, moral or political,” she said.
“It’s hard for me to express how excited I am about this project, it’s something that I believe in profoundly – educating the public through an exhibition and hopefully bringing about empathy and awareness.”
The New Beginnings Art Exhibition, supported by Marrickville Council, will be held at Chrissie Cotter Gallery in Camperdown from 17–26 June. Forming part of the New Beginnings: Refugee Arts & Culture Festival, the exhibition will feature visual art, photography, multimedia, installation and screenings.
New Beginnings 2016 is a family friendly, all ages festival held during Refugee Week that celebrates the talent and diversity of people from refugee backgrounds. Featuring live music and dance performances, workshops, food and market stalls, the festival will be held on June 18, from 10–4pm at Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour.