Last weekend I filmed a traditional Samoan Ava ceremony in Brisbane. It was great to experience an event with so much heart and to know such a motivated group of young people are keeping Pasifika Wellbeing on the agenda. The event was hosted by the Pasifika Young Peoples Wellbeing Network who are based at QUT. If you are interested to know more about what they are doing you can find them here.
Grass-roots Community Development in Action
Echunga, the Peramangk word for 'close by', is a wee town in the Adelaide Hills. Although it is only forty kilometres from the Adelaide city centre, there is no mains water or sewage connected. Residents are consequently a resourceful bunch collecting their own rainwater as well as roadside firewood in the frosty winters. I have spent some time collecting memories of this small town in photographs and film. Now together with local resident Rachel Ventor we have created a website celebrating what the community has to offer. The Echunga Community Association, also known as Heart of Gold, are a grass-roots organisation who have been working tirelessly to host events and create bridges within the community. You can see their upcoming events here. The website has been created to help create a strong sense of community and inspire residents to come together and realise their aspirations for the future of this small and increasingly diverse town.
This month I was lucky enough to work on a research project with DJ’s Frosty, Tim, Soti and Shana from Fresh Crew Radio in Brissy and was blown away by their energy and insight. Our student team from UQ teamed up with QUT public Health to explore what Pasifika youth in Brisbane identify as important to their well-being. We used story, participatory video, and a river of life activity to reflect on challenges, assets and recommendations for Pasifika youth. The research confirmed that stereotypes, stigmatisation and racism remain key challenges, as well as identity and belonging. Dreams the group identified for the future included achieving wider representation in the work force and breaking the silence around mental health. Key recommendations were to challenge a tradition of ‘toxic positivity’ where there is a culture of good vibes only and to regularly check in with friends. Most importantly, sensitive issues that exist in the Pasifika community were debated bringing the radio crew and their audience to agree that it is important that ways are found to make it easier to discuss mental health challenges. A big thank you to Elske Van de Fliert, Sarai Tafa and Jo Durham who were brilliant guides in the research process.
Photo taken by Jeni Lee at Pasifika Vibes, 2019
I am fascinated by the small stands people take against the things that trouble them, especially when they stage a stunt in the public eye. I am a strong believer that cultural shifts come through incremental changes. One day I would like to publish a book of photos of people around the world making small stands and staging their own mini revolutions! If you have any ideas for your own rebellious act I would love to talk to you about it…
What an amazing mini glimpse into island life in the beautiful Torres Strait, and to be immersed in the ghost net sculptures of the Erub Arts Collaborative. Island life has its own rhythm and pace and is intimately connected with the ocean and the land. Spending time filming the artists on Erub Island was a reminder that we can all play a role in protecting our little pocket and the places we live.
‘We are all connected by the world’s oceans’
Florence Gutcheon, Erub Island artist.
In June this years I was privileged to visit Yirkalla community in Arnhem Land to do some filming for the Tarnanthi arts festival. Walking into the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre in Yirkalla is breathtaking. A remote and proud community surrounded by Top End termite mounds, pandanus, forest fires and croc filled water holes, the arts centre is an inspired explosion of bark art, ochres and burial poles. Yirkalla is home to the original bark painting presented to Parliament to begin the first land title claim in Australia. An inspiring location to be filming elder and acclaimed artist, Nawurapu Wunungmurra as he passed on his knowledge of carving Mukoy (spirits) to his grandson.
Travelling with BKFA in Uganda we met the most incredible role model, Mama Cecilia, a powerhouse in her own right, mother and grandmother of many, and long time activist for women’s rights. Mama Cecilia started Teso Women’s Peace Activists in her own home district in regional Uganda. She has fought for land rights for women, and the right for women to have safe births and to be free from domestic violence. Droughts have recently impacted the area, and Mama Cecilia’s team continue, with the resources they can pull together, to travel to remote areas reminding women to speak up about their rights in the most challenging of environments. I am reminded of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s belief: “Stories can be used to empower and humanise. Stories can repair broken dignity”. I am hoping one day I can return and spend more time exploring more of what Mama Cecilia and TEWPA do.
“We have given the women the sense
to demand what is rightly theirs”.