Harmony Art Collective - Creating Real Change For Multicultural Youth In Australia

Words & photos by Reuben Gore

October of 2016, Multicultural Youth SA (MYSA) joined with SBS, aMBUSH Gallery and the Department of Social Services to host the Adelaide leg of the Harmony Art Collective. This was a series of street art workshops for young Australians aged between 15 and 24 years coming from refugee backgrounds.

Artist Ben Frost oversaw creative direction of the project, which was held over several days at MYSA’s Croydon office. The artistic process allows the young creatives express themselves through a medium that transcends the language barriers of more than a dozen different nationalities present in the building.

Hours were spent browsing magazines for pictures that resonated with the youth and their unique cultural identities. These were then cut out, enlarged, and pasted onto large boards where the process of painting key elements then took place.

The images used are symbolic of key themes faced by the young refugees, including tolerance, peace, safety, extremism and other concepts which proved difficult to speak about conversationally but were easily expressed through art.

As the state representative and service delivery body for refugee youth in South Australia, it is important for MYSA to provide avenues for our clients to raise awareness of their issues and showcase their cultural identity at a national level.
— CEO of MYSA, Tamara Stewart-Jones

On the 14th of March 2017, a week before Harmony Day, all of the artworks produced across Australia for the collective were unveiled for public viewing in Sydney’s Darling Harbor, accompanied by an evening launch held at the Monkey Baa theatre where highlights from each workshop were screened.

MYSA clients Henry Kettor and Faith Abio had the opportunity to represent the organisation and meet young refugees like themselves from different locations around the country, who had produced the other artworks on display.

Henry, 19, who came to Australia from Liberia in 2014 had not yet visited Sydney until the opportunity with MYSA arose.

We visited the Opera House, went climbing on the Harbour Bridge, and also visited the SBS television studios.

MYSA supports over 4,000 young refugee people like Henry and Faith each year. They’re constantly on the look out for volunteers to help them with their great work. You can find out more about them at www.mysa.com.au

The Harmony Art Collective display will be open daily until the 30th of April at the outdoor exhibition area of the Darling Quarter. Harmony Day is celebrated this Tuesday the 21st of March.