Home Zia Atahi (detail)Showcasing poignant artworks from refugee artists, the City of Greater Dandenong’s annual exhibition, HOME has announced the six shortlisted national artists from a refugee or asylum seeker background, whose works will be on display at the Walker Street Art Gallery until 24 November 2018.

Selected by a panel of specialists from within the Creative industries, curator David O’Halloran has announced the shortlisted artists: Elyas Alvi, Zia Atahi, Tadros Hanna, Mirwais Janbaz, Lobsang Dhoyou Rongtsang and Amir Tehrani.

Elyas Alavi is a poet and visual artist. Elyas’ works explore many social justice including displacement, exile, gender, separation and human nature. The emotional tumult of living in a war zone and then leaving his country as a refugee, impacts deeply on Elyas’ visual art work. As a poet, Elyas has published 3 poetry books in Iran and Afghanistan.

Afghani photographer Zia Atahi has explored how environments affect human behavior. Zia has previously run photography workshops in Indonesia and Australia. In 2018 Zia was a National Photographic Portrait Prize finalist.

Egyptian born Tadros Hanna’s painting combines iconography that evokes the rich and complex mythologies and spiritual traditions of Egypt, exploring themes of hope and life. Tadros has previously worked as an architect and interior designer for 20 years before coming to Melbourne.

A single father of two children, Tadros created the Harmony Calendar Project at St Albans Primary School – an art program that celebrated and enhanced children’s’ understanding of harmony and community cohesion.

Afghani Mirwais Janbaz has explored themes of dark and light where women are struggling in another part of the world. In 1997 Mirwais moved to Pakistan to flee a civil war in Kabul. Since moving to Australia Mirwais has taught art classes to other refugees.

Lobsang is a maker of traditional Tibetan Cham masks. Masks are used to transform identity in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. These masks often have an enraged or menacing look, designed to evoke terror and scare away evil spirits. Often performed in the central courtyard of a monastery, the masks are worn during a dance called the Cham, performed by monks and nuns.

Iranian Amir Tehrani has explored an interest in how people need to be constantly connected both physically and mentally, in a fragmented world: “It also explores the idea of trying to find and stay connected while there are pressures tugging at the threads to pull us apart and fray these connections,”says Amir.

Amir arrived in Australia from Tehran in 2013, in 2014 he was asked to paint several pieces for a church in Dandenong, the sale of these pieces raised funds to help those in need in Africa. In 2018 he won an art award at the Refugee and Asylum Seeker Recognition Awards.

“To experience the traumas that being a refugee puts you through, and still say ‘I will make art’ is an affirmation of the human craving for expression,” said HOME exhibition ambassador Sami Shah. “The work here is a reminder of our need to care for one another, while also nourishing our hunger for art that reflects heretofore unseen points of view.”

All six shortlisted artists will receive $1000 each from sponsor IKEA Springvale to support the development of new work, and they will also be provided with professional development opportunities in the creative sector.

Now in its fourth year, HOME is a celebration of the City of Greater Dandenong’s cultural diversity, with the city now designated as the most culturally diverse community in Australia. Over half of Greater Dandenong’s residents were born overseas. Residents come from 157 different birthplaces and speak more than 200 languages. Among the most widely spoken languages is Vietnamese, Khmer, Punjabi, Mandarin, Cantonese and Greek.

Through HOME, exhibiting artists are connected to mentors to increase experience across the creative sector and may be offered further opportunity to participate in the City of Greater Dandenong’s Artist in Residence program.

Walker Street Gallery & Arts Centre, Corner Walker and Robinson Streets, Dandenong
Exhibition continues to 24 November 2018
Free admission

For more information, visit: www.greaterdandenong.com for details.

Image: photo by Zia Atahi (detail)