Learning, investigation, collaboration and creation

Hazara boy reads whilst his cattle graze.

I was moved by this photo of a young Hazara taken, I’m assuming, some where in central Afghanistan. The photo was titled, “I have decided to learn, no power can stop me.” I’m not sure if that quote comes direct from Latif Kakbar whose site I’d found the photo on, but regardless it sums up the Hazara I have got to know, if only briefly, as both well educated and committed to supporting the well being of their people.

The first strategic step taken in my new role within Home Lands has been completed. I was asked to provide a scoping report that sought to deepen our knowledge of the new community we intend to work with, ethnic Afghanistanis, potential partnerships, distribution and exhibition outcomes and finally, what a revitalised Home Lands project looks like.

Home Lands v1 resulted in an embryonic project with a group of young Sudanese and Karen. The Karen are indigenous to Burma and many of the Sudanese came to Australia via Kakuma, the largest refugee camp in Kenya. Home Lands v1 was to seed co-production with Sudanese in Melbourne and if not in Kakuma itself, with former refugees in Nairobi. I visited Kenya in 2008 to explore these options. As the Kenyan government was keen to repatriate Sudanese from Kakuma back to their home lands, my colleagues at the UNHCR informed me that any project that may have given them hope for repatriation else where would not be favoured by Kenyan authorities. As such, Home Lands was given the proverbial cold shoulder by the Kenyan government in spite of the efforts of UNHCR to ensure my safe passage to Kakuma.

There were many other complications and sensitivities that were complex to overcome, both locally and remotely. It was less so with the Karen with whom Home Lands sought to create a collaborative project between Melbourne and a refugee camp in Mae Sot, in the Thai-Burma border. The end result of this work was published in a project website, KarenTV, and videos compiled onto a DVD.

With these projects completed it was decided to adopt an entirely different approach. One reason being is that the technologies that hindered the project in its early days is less of an issue now. The other is that the young people we are keen to work with are both media literate and already connected with their communities nationally and abroad. The idea is that we still co-produce with local and remote teams, but instead of focusing on technology issues, we can direct our efforts entirely on content.

Home Lands v2 is an audience driven media arts series connecting young people from refugee backgrounds to their home lands and separated communities.

Home Lands v2 will be audience focused at the outset and based on a pre-defined set of themes identified by participants in consultation with their friends and peers across their networks.

The emphasis will be on deep engagement with audiences drawn from our core groups existing networks and communities, cultivating stories bound within each theme and produced in collaboration with ethnic Afghanistanis abroad. Production outcomes will include a mix exhibition ready projects localised primarily in the City of Melbourne. A skills and capacity building program with Youthworx,  interwoven with collaborative project work and networking, including incentives for our team of content producers such as pathways options, mentorships and access to Melbourne’s creative communities would complete the package.

If learning is what drives some of the Hazara I have thus far met, it will be most curious to see what will come of what is essentially a cultural development program underpinned by learning, investigation, collaboration and creation.

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