We celebrated our community’s cultural diversity and creativity with My Arts My Culture.
My Arts My Culture followed the stories of 7 artists connected to Boroondara, exploring how their culture is informed through their artistic practice.
You can experience My Arts My Culture by learning about the stories of the artists through the video series, and engaging with our educational resource for primary school aged students. You can find the educational resource on our My Arts My Culture education resource page.
Through the art of storytelling, honest and inspiring insights have been captured, highlighting how the arts provides a common thread for our community to engage with and learn about Australia’s rich cultural diversity.
Each participant’s portrait has been captured by artist and designer, Nicole van Dijk. Nicole includes symbols of what inspires each artist to continue to share their artistic talents in each artist’s portrait.
Heritage: Chinese Australian
Anna grew up near the Sydney beaches and practised the piano after school every day.
She loves simple homemade dishes, like spicy pickled vegetables and salted duck egg tofu salad.
Anna has a strong connection to her Chinese culture, even though she has lived in Australia her whole life. Through learning about her heritage from her family, Anna grew up loving the food and festivals that her culture offered, and she also used to listen to Chinese operas.
Anna has always been passionate about music and other art forms, including dance, visual arts, and literature. Anna believes they all influence each other and her music-making.
As a pianist, Anna learns about other cultures and their distinct music taste and style. For example, when Anna plays music by Polish composer, Chopin, she will research Chopin's cultural influences, including popular Polish traditional mazurkas which were popular at the time when he composed music. This research gives Anna a better understanding about how to perform the composer’s music.
Anna believes art and music are a language that all cultures can understand, because they evoke the same emotions for everyone - whether it be Chinese opera or Chopin's traditional music.
Anna studies at The Melbourne Conservatism of Music and recently won the 2021 Boroondara Eisteddfod's Piano Concerto.
Diversity to me means understanding of each other, no matter what background, personalities or beliefs. Sharing different cultures with one another, through art, music and food.
Heritage: Italian Australian
Anna was born in Melbourne after her Italian parents migrated to Australia in the 1950s after World War Two. When Anna was at school, her parents worked full time, so she would often help at home by doing the chores.
Anna's family always ate dinner together, even if it meant they had to wait for Anna’s dad to come home late in the evening. Anna loves her mum's homemade lasagne and gnocchi. Anna’s mum frequently cooked gnocchi, but the lasagne was only for special occasions.
Anna grew up speaking an Italian dialect from the Abruzzo Region and has travelled to Italy many times. In her twenties, she moved to Italy to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Turin. During this time, Anna discovered her connection to her Italian heritage. It is her dream to one day live between Australia and Italy, as she feels she has strong links to both lands and cultures.
As a visual artist, Anna has always been a curious person. Through her experience living in Australia and Italy, Anna's artwork is influenced by her environment, experiences, and culture.
Anna believes that art plays a vital role in connecting other people and their cultures. She believes art is a beautiful way to record history, and that art can help create awareness of other people and their cultures.
This, Anna believes, will help all people develop compassion and empathy towards each other.
My artwork is evidence of my existence, environment, experience and culture.
Heritage: Greek Australian
Con is a first-generation Greek Australian, growing up in Coburg, Melbourne. Con started playing the guitar when he was 9 years old and practised every day after school. Con’s dad and twin brother also played the guitar.
Con loves food and all the different types of cuisines he has experienced when travelling around the world. Con has visited Greece many times, as well as visiting Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Africa. Con’s top three favourite cuisines are Greek, Indian and Italian.
Con performs Rebetiko music, which is traditional Greek music. The music has a solid connection to the complex history of Greece, and performing it connects him to his culture and ancestors. The repertoire requires Con to have discipline and dedication to perform it.
Con is passionate about people and being a good person. He loves teaching and sharing his culture with people from his own cultural community, as well as people from different cultural backgrounds. He loves to sing and perform music to keep his heritage alive and performs across Melbourne including at the Hawthorn Arts Centre.
Con thinks music is the world's international language which removes cultural barriers and brings people together. He believes that even if people do not understand the spoken language, they can feel the emotions of a song. When Con performs, he explains the music in English to bring people into the conversation and give the song meaning.
Art is literally the international language, regardless of background it has no political or ethnic boundaries.
Heritage: Iranian Australian
Gelareh grew up with her family in Tehran, Iran. Gelareh used to do her homework quickly after school so she had time to play the Nintendo with her brother or dress-ups with her sister, pretending to be musicians holding a concert. Gelareh also started a community shop with her friends in the neighbourhood, selling handicrafts to their parents when they were returning home from work.
Gelareh believes Iranians are very proud of their culture - passionate about food, football, and anything else related to where they come from. She feels that even if people from her culture have different ideas, a there is a deep connection to the culture regardless.
Gelareh began her music career in Iran, playing traditional Iranian instruments and singing in Farsi. Although her connection to her culture manifests in her music, Gelareh doesn't believe it necessarily defines her as a musician.
Sometimes it is hard for other people to see Gelareh as an "Iranian artist". Gelareh likes to remind people that she is more than her cultural heritage, and that the music she makes reflects all of her experiences, including her experience of living and working in Australia.
Gelareh thinks arts brings different cultures together. It also helps to showcase unique cultural differences and demonstrates how traditional cultural practices can be used for contemporary audiences.
Gelareh now lives and performs across Australia, including at the Hawthorn Arts Centre. She is passionate about gardening, diasporic art, cats, cooking and interior design. She loves all kinds of food, except for cheese.
The beauty I find in inter-cultural art is that it brings different cultures together, it celebrates similarities at the same time as the unique traits of each culture.
Glenn is a Wiradjuri man who grew up near Ulan in New South Wales. When Glenn left school, he worked with the government for a short time before joining the Salvation Army.
As Glenn was growing up, he and his family did not identify with their Aboriginal heritage, even though their grandmother was Aboriginal and known in the community. As time went by, his culture slowly revealed itself through discussions with his father and other Aboriginal people who have been on a similar journey.
Glenn is now an artist who expresses his culture through painting contemporary Australian art. His art tells his story and experiences of growing up in Australia. He hopes his art encourages people like him to tell their stories and challenge ideas about what it means to be Aboriginal and what Aboriginal art is.
As well as being an artist, Glenn is the priest at St Oswald's Anglican Church in Glen Iris. He believes diversity is colour in a beige world. When all different people from different backgrounds come together, it can open the doors to many things - including friendship and respect.
My culture embedded in my story informs what I paint, how I paint and why I paint.
Heritage: Chinese and Dutch French Heritage
John grew up in Hong Kong and then moved to Sydney. His family home was decorated with master landscape paintings, vases and furniture mainly from the Ming and Qing dynasties. John’s mother was a Chinese Opera singer, and his granduncle was a celebrated poet named 'The Thirteenth Literati of the Southern Seas'.
As a child, John learnt Chinese calligraphy and painted after school and at night with a painter from St Petersburg, Russia.
John believes that art is a necessity to our society, and without it, the world would be uncivilised. He believes the arts enrich people’s lives, connecting them by encouraging everyone to accept differences and invite other people's points of view.
John believes that diversity means making a hospitable place for everyone, where differences are welcomed and celebrated. He believes we must co-exist as one community, think about human rights, and consider the different values we all hold. Diversity and its celebration are highlighted in many of his works that he has on exhibit and in collections around the world- including Boroondara’s Town Hall Gallery Collection.
Art facilitates and enriches people to see their own and invite other people’s points of view.
Heritage: India Australia
Saurabh grew up in India, Japan and Australia, and enjoyed going to school and learning. He also learned and practised Hindustani classical music with his father.
Hindustani classical music is an inherently spiritual and meditative art form. He believes it is enjoyable to practice Hindustani by yourself or in front of an audience. The music is improvised and is informed by spiritual experiences, ideas, and great storytellers.
Saurabh is inspired by his two cultures. Hinduism informs his spiritual self-discovery, and his Australian culture informs his self-confidence, democracy, and a sense of humour.
Saurabh believes that art is a story that connects us all. It tells the story of love, loss, grief, joy, adventure, and self-discovery. He believes everyone has this within them, it just needs to be discovered.
Saurabh is a vocalist who co-founded the Melbourne Hindustani Classical music group. They perform around Melbourne, including at the Hawthorn Arts Centre. The group receives support from the City of Boroondara and the Victorian State Government to share their culture with a broader audience.
When Saurabh is not playing music, he loves to spend time with his friends and family, play golf and cricket, and eat some delicious Gulab Jamun (a fried ball of dough dipped in sugar syrup).
To be able to live in a diverse society is truly a gift as it enables us to feel joy and connection in so many different ways.