New Podcast to challenge cultural whitewashing

Diversity Arts Australia Lena NahlousDiversity Arts Australia has launched a new podcast series The Colour Cycle which aims to disrupt cultural whitewashing and examines whether Australia’s Arts and Cultural sector looks like Australia.

The Colour Cycle Podcast is a seven-part series by Diversity Arts Australia, Australia’s key national organisation advocating for cultural diversity in the arts. The podcast is hosted by Lena Nahlous, Executive Director of Diversity Arts Australia (DARTS).

“We want our podcast to open up conversations about why our arts and screens don’t reflect Australia’s real cultural diversity. We’re also showcasing some brilliant artists and creative workers along the way,” says Nahlous.

The 2016 Census data shows that Australia is increasingly diverse with almost half the population first or second generation migrants. Yet Artists of non-English speaking background account for just 10% of artists compared to 18% of the workforce, according to the Australia Council’s 2017 Making Art Work report.

What effect does this have on non-White Australians? As Writer Benjamin Law has said “Growing up without seeing yourself reflected back in your nation’s stories is a quietly dehumanising thing.”

These are some of the issues tackled in The Colour Cycle. We talk to artists and arts workers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds about their experiences of trying to break into the sector, dealing with stereotypes and changing the dominant narratives.

Guests include writer and actor Benjamin Law, writer Sunil Badami, performance poet Zainab Syed, Australian Human Rights Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane, refugee arts worker Carolina Triana and artists from the refugee community.

Each week Nahlous asks the questions: does our arts sector reflect the cultural diversity we see on our streets? What does it feel like if your culture is largely invisible on stage, on screen and in our galleries? And what are strategies for change?

“We hope our podcast will challenge cultural whitewashing and the idea that you can just tick a box and tackle the diversity issue,” said Nahlous. “The issues are not only attitudinal but also institutional and structural, and things can only shift when all of these elements change. We also intend to have a lot of fun and be a little provocative along the way.”

With more than 20 years-experience in the sector, Nahlous has curated, directed and creatively produced exhibitions, films, festivals, performance and arts projects. She has worked extensively with culturally and linguistically diverse artists and communities and is former Executive Director of Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE).

Nahlous established the Switch digital arts centre, co-founded the Arab Film Festival, and was named one of Sydney’s 100 Creative Catalysts at the inaugural 2009 Vivid Festival. Nahlous also sits on the Board of Sydney Writers’ Festival.

The Colour Cycle Podcast is available now on Apple iTunes. For more information, visit: Diversity Arts Australia or iTunes.

Image: Lena Nahlous – courtesy of Diversity Arts Australia