15 September 2021

Artistic expression brings migrant women together

| Jeremy Jones
The Migrant Women’s Art Group

The Migrant Women’s Art Group is a free art group for women who have migrated to Australia and live in the Gungahlin region. Photo: Kiran Grewal (photo pre-COVID lockdown).

The Migrant Women’s Art Group creates not only art but also community. It’s a free art group for women who have migrated to Australia and live in the Gungahlin region.

The group’s first project was on belonging, and artists brought an object from their culture for the class to draw.

“We would get to know more about that object, and in this way, we exchanged our cultures and learned about different cultures,” says organiser Kiran Grewal.

“We had people from Chile, India, Bangladesh – all over the world. It was the first time we connected with each other as artists in a cultural exchange.”

A major part of the program is the migrant artists’ connections with services in Canberra, such as the Multicultural Hub. The Hub’s managing director, Zakia Patel, supports the participants and can link them with any help they need.

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When the program moved online last year due to lockdown, Ms Grewal replaced artworks with slideshow presentations.

“We shared slides and artists spoke for 15 minutes about their culture – a thing which is very special to them,” says Ms Grewal.

She streamlined the program to focus on different parts of the world.

“When we focused on Africa, I learned about different types of turbans which relate to different tribes. We then had a batik session. People feel it is okay to be themselves and wear cultural clothes and hairstyles in Canberra streets.”

Batik session

The group had a batik session when they focused on African art. Photo Kiran Grewal.

The group has applied lessons learned from the last lockdown to its current experience.

“We know how to go online and stay connected. We started a WhatsApp group and an Instagram account. The group is part of the community. It’s lifting our spirits. The older members mentor the younger ones. During these uncertain times when COVID has created isolation not only where we are, but also from the home countries, to have someone to listen to is a privilege,” says Ms Grewal.

Although the 2020 lockdown came at a challenging time for the program, this strengthened the migrant arts community and the program grew from five to 41 members.

“It created a strong foundation for migrant groups. Everybody had that sense of care for each other.”

Ms Grewal extended the program to include international artists to hold workshops within the group and share skills. These included mini art workshops like mindful drawing and painting.

Drawing of vase

The group have conducted mini art workshops like drawing and painting during Lockdown. Photo: Kiran Grewal.

“Some felt they couldn’t draw and now have that skill. Women feel empowered. A few have joined other art or creative groups. These were women who were not confident or even applying for work. The group’s great achievement was when I recently received a text message from a young lady that she got her first paycheck.”

These are some of the colourful works from the group.

Saleha Farooq’s AUTUMN AGONY

Painting of a cup on concrete

Saleha Farooq’s AUTUMN AGONY is about the pain and discomfort an individual feels separated by a significant other. Photo: The Migrant Women’s Art Group.

Saleha Farooq is a designer/artist from Lahore, Pakistan, currently living in Australia. She did her bachelor’s degree in Product Design from the National College of Arts, Pakistan. “Each creation showcases my own personal journey. When you glance over my work, you catch a glimpse of my soul,” she says.

Aneeta Bano’s Over my Fence

Painting of a sunset over a building

Aneeta Bano’s Over my Fence. Photo: The Migrant Women’s Art Group.

Aneeta Bano starts with connecting imagery and drawing with what she sees and feels. She is an award-winning artist with a postgraduate degree in Fine Arts from Pakistan where she was an exhibiting artist.

Gladys Casanueva’s Mosaic

Mosaic of a fish

Gladys Casanueva’s Mosaic. Photo: The Migrant Women’s Art Group.

Gladys Casanueva’s mosaics are inspired by the colours of her home country Chile where she learned the art of making mosaics.

Hee Sook (Green) Kim’s Untitled

Watercolour painting of flowers

Hee Sook (Green) Kim’s Untitled. Photo: The Migrant Women’s Art Group.

Hee Sook (Green) Kim has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and was an exhibiting artist in South Korea. On migrating to Sydney, she set up her studio and now holds workshops for children and adults.

To learn more or get involved, visit Belco Arts. Migrant Women’s Art Group is supported by Michele Grimston, Gungahlin Programs Officer, and GungahlinArts.

Original Article published by Jeremy Jones on The RiotACT.

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