A Melbourne winter brings with it unbearable winds, circulating viruses and the emotional and mental exhaustion brought about by a combination of the above and not enough shelter from the rain on platform one. Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV), however, are making your winter a little bit brighter, a little bit louder and far more colourful than the usual June winter we’re so unlucky to be graced with.
MAV are excited to be hosting their ninth Emerge Festival this year, with a mammoth 12 events running from the start of June until the end of July – including the inaugural Emerge Film Festival. “Emerge is all about showcasing artistic and cultural talent in Victoria’s emerging refugee communities,” says MAV project manager, Jess Fairfax. “It’s pretty open to everyone, there’s no specific demographic that we target. We open it up to the whole community to immerse themselves with the multicultural talents within Victoria”.
Kicking off the festival on the first is a visual arts exhibition with the Somali community aiming to paint (quite literally) a positive image of Somali landscapes and positive images to people both of the Somali and the wider Victorian community. Next up is the Heartlands 2012 Exhibition, which in its third year will feature paintings, drawings, mixed media and photographic works entered in the Heartlands Refugee Fine Art Prize. On Wednesday June 13, a creative performance in coordination with the Ethic Community Council of Victoria and Playback Theatre will feature amongst the artworks at Heartlands at fortyfivedownstairs.
The inaugural Emerge Film Festival took place over three nights from June 3-5 and showcased talented, young filmmakers from diverse backgrounds. The film festival allowed people from refugee and emerging communities to emulate their experiences through the powerful medium of film. “We have Emerge in Dandenong [where] they have the biggest population of diverse communities in Victoria and we do a special Emerge down there showcasing the talent just within Dandenong and the cultures within that community.”
Emerge in Dandenong takes place at the Drum Theatre. A special performance on Thursday June 21 at the Melbourne Recital Centre will see the networking of professional refugee musicians teamed up with professionals including incredible Bistat Seyoum and Laneway funk. There is also the opportunity for budding artists and musicians to take part in development workshops every Saturday from June 23-July 28. The workshops are for those who want to get a bit “cluey” in the industry, particularly the business side of making any form of art as well as help in festivals and getting their name out there.
The main event on Sunday June 17 will bring the Fitzroy Town Hall and Napier street to life with it’s three stages, amazing musicians, food, art and markets and good times. A perfect winter warmer. Performances at the main event include Bistat Seyoum, Anbessa an incredible Kirar player, the J-AZMARIS lead by Daniel Atlaw, percussion groups and dance groups, reggae group, Ras Jah Know, The Burundi drums and plenty more. “It’ll be a pretty massive day, and its free which is always fun,” notes Fairfax. “The music is non-stop. We’ve got three stages so you can leave one and go to the next and see acts that you’ve never seen before.”
Aside from the music there are cultural workshops, food from around the globe and a market place. “The food is always a huge draw card, we get a lot of feedback and everyone’s like, ‘oh my god, the food is amazing’,” Jess says, “everything is always delicious.”
The marketplaces are always an opportunity to shop up big, offering an array of traditional Ethiopian clothes, Pacific island weaving goods and jewelry. There will be a Henna stall, and also ‘Happy Villages’ – Kenyan goods made by poor and HIV-positive women. There is also Sankofa, fair-trade beautiful home wear goods and this year Social Studio will have a stall, which allows refugee design students to showcase their work and sell it. “They design their own garments, [they’re] really beautiful”. The main event really is for everyone, combining incredible food, performances and artwork as well the opportunity to meet some of the artists throughout the day. “You get to see these awesome acts, which aren’t always professional; they are emerging or community groups. You know, all of these diverse forms of music and dance you don’t get to see everyday.”
Apart from putting on amazing festivals to the thousands of Victorians who frequent the event each year, Emerge provides artists and musicians with assistance in breaking it into the difficult industry in Australia.
“A lot of artists have had to flee their counties and have made Melbourne home, but we don’t complain about that because we have amazing artists and Bistat is one of them”. A lot of the performing artists from the festival are a part of the Visible Mentoring program, a program which helps guide artists who have been professional back home integrate themselves into the arts industry. “They’re all really professional, amazing talented artists so [the festival] is an opportunity to see them in action which is always incredible”.
BY BRIGITTE TROBBIANI
Multicultural Arts Victoria’s Emerge Festival is running now until Tuesday July 31 around Victoria showcasing the contribution emerging and refugee communities are having on contemporary arts and culture. Visit multiculturalarts.com.au for more information.