Cultural Diversity Week celebrates inclusivity

The Solace Stream is part of the Listening to Land installation at the council offices in South Morang. Left to right: Solace Stream creator Vin Anderson, City of Whittlesea chief executive Craig Lloyd, chair administrator Lydia Wilson, Vin Anderson's son Jacob, who also worked on the piece, and Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Ian Hunter.

The City of Whittlesea is hosting a series of art, film, music and language events and workshops over the next fortnight, celebrating belonging, inclusivity and the municipality’s rich cultural and linguistic diversity.

The program is across Harmony Week, the five days in the lead up to Harmony Day on March 21, and Cultural Diversity Week, which falls on the following week.

Harmony Day, now in its 22nd year, coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, while Cultural Diversity Week, from March 21 to 28, is Victoria’s largest celebration of multiculturalism.

Whittlesea’s centrepiece artwork is Listening to Land, a public installation by several artists, including paintings by Simeon Walker and Wurundjeri artist Mandy Nicholson; Birrarung, a film composition by Maudie Palmer; and the Solace Stream by landscape artist Vin Anderson.

Mr Anderson used rocks, branches and water to create a running stream on the tiled floor of the council offices’ Great Hall in South Morang.

“We’ve brought in some sights and sounds, bush, trees, some noise with the water, smell with the eucalyptus. Everything is sourced locally and will all go into another project next,” he said.

Taking cues from patterns found in the area’s landscapes, the Solace Stream invites visitors to reflect on the importance of nature on residents’ wellbeing throughout lockdown last year, and what they may have discovered in their areas.

“We want to reflect what people have been finding, particularly in the last 12 months, down these little streams, nooks and crannies around their own area,” Mr Anderson said.

“I’d like people to walk in the door and say ‘wow’, and then feel something different, smell something different and then from there hopefully reflect.”

Much of the two-week program will be at the council offices’ Great Hall alongside Listening to Land.

On March 17 at 6.30pm, visitors will be seated around the stream for a free screening of Small Island Big Song, an internationally renowned documentary film tracing the songlines of communities in the Pacific Islands and the Indian Ocean.

Songlines are a method of storytelling and oral mapping, and have been a prominent element of First Nations communities for tens of thousands of years. ​

Filmed over three years on 16 island nations, the project by Taiwanese producer BaoBao Chen and Australian filmmaker Tim Cole unites hundreds of musicians through song from Hawaii and Madagascar, to Borneo, New Zealand, Taiwan, the Torres Strait Islands and more.

Other featured events include a performance by Australian-Jordanian musician Hana Zreikat on March 18; a workshop and discussion on interpretations and translations of Rumi’s poetry led by Merve Onder of the Islamic Museum Australia, including a poetry-writing session, on March 22; and a lesson in the history and technique of Aboriginal dot paintings by Western Arrarnta, Luritja and Kokotha artist Emrhan Tjapanangka Sultan on March 24. Each event is free but bookings are essential.

The full program runs until the end of March, with Listening to Land open weekdays until May 21.

For more information and bookings visit the City of Whittlesea website, https://www.whittlesea.vic.gov.au/arts-events-recreation/things-to-see-and-do/events/cultural-diversity-program-2021/