Refugee community combine for seed pod art project

The Singlish Choir, led by Ruth Kennedy of STARTTS and Cheryl Ward of Frontier Projects, performed for the first time.

A STUNNING collective artwork has been created by women from the Coffs Harbour refugee community working together in the You Are Welcome Here Seedpod Project.

The collaborative endeavour launched on 15 March with a celebration of connectedness.

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“The NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS), in partnership with Mission Australia and artist/art therapist Marg Coutts, engaged refugee women to create a work of art inside seedpods based on the theme of their journey and belonging,” Ruth Kennedy of STARTTS told News Of The Area.

The individual seed pods were then combined by Marg to create the unique, mesmerising collective artwork that is now exhibited on the foyer wall of Mission Australia.

To launch the artwork, a collaborative afternoon of activities was organised.

Uncle Micklo Jarrett delivered a moving Welcome to Country in Gumbaynggirr language.

Celeste Abell of Mission Australia, Marg Coutts, Ruth Kennedy and participant Najat Mhi gave speeches about their role in the project.

Najat shared how much she enjoyed having the freedom to paint what she wanted about her life and her religion as she had never been free to express herself like this before.

The Gunganbu Choir, led by Uncle Micklo and Ilka Shroeder, performed a song in Gumbaynggirr language.

The Singlish Choir, created to teach English through singing, led by Ruth Kennedy of STARTTS and Cheryl Ward of Frontier Projects, performed for the first time.

They sang a call and response gospel song featuring solos by four members.

Singlish and Gunganbu then performed a traditional Aboriginal song together in four languages including English, Gumbaynggirr, Kriol and Auslan for the hearing impaired.

Wan Carma and Alem Aseffa Terferra catered, providing a delicious lunch of traditional Malaysian and Ethiopian food.

At least 80 people attended the event and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Everyone was so moved, some to tears, with the Welcome to Country, speeches, music, art and food,” Ruth told News Of The Area.

“It was a wonderful example of how the arts unifies people to come together as one.

“A celebration of all the cultures that make up our community, from the original first people to the newest arrivals.”

All involved in the project agreed the launch of You Are Welcome Here highlights how much support exists out there for all people of the Coffs community.

See the artwork at Mission Australia, 9 Duke Street, Coffs Harbour.


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