Promoting diversity of cultural expression in the arts in Australia. A case study report

This appears to be the first Australian report on its implementation of the Convention for cultural diversity, presented in 2015 after its ratification in 2009; further, it could be an outcome of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Australia Council and UNESCO Bangkok to promote cultural diversity in the Asia-Pacific, signed in 2012. It was written by Dr Phillip Mar and Disginguished Professor Ien Ang of the Institute for Culture and Society of Western Sydney University.

Mavs-visible.jpg MAV’s Visible mentoring program. See below.

The study reports on eight case studies. Before describing them, it offers these preparatory remarks:

‘Cultural democracy, cultural innovation and cultural sustainability are three distinct yet inter-related objectives whose pursuit is greatly advanced in an environment which is committed to cultural diversity, as exemplified by the case studies in this report. On the basis of these case studies, we can distil five principles in relation to the practical possibilities of promoting diversity of cultural expressions through artistic practices of many kinds. We present these five principles here as a contribution to critical discourse in this field. The five principles are:

  1. Truly relevant and energetic creative work will come from working across cultures.
  2. Building cultural capabilities is best served by developing strong cross-cultural partnerships.
  3. Locating arts practices within ‘culture cycles’ will facilitate a broader understanding of the diverse forms of ‘value’ generated by cultural expressions.
  4. Inclusive and dialogical curatorial processes are a key means of enhancing diversity of cultural expressions.
  5. Supporting diversity of cultural expression will enhance art’s ability to resonate and make a difference.

Each of the eight projects is for a particular art form and each of them is uniquely interesting. The music project is titled Visible and it was organised by Multicultural Arts Victoria. A summary follows and it gives an idea of the thrust of the project. However, the project description is very interesting and we recommend that you read it at http://www.multiculturalarts.com.au/. Multicultural Arts Victoria is the most imaginative producer of diverse arts in the country. This project fits under the first of the three project categories given above by the authors.

1. ENHANCING CULTURAL DEMOCRACY THROUGH COMMUNITY-BASED APPROACHES: ‘VISIBLE’

WHAT IS ‘VISIBLE’?

  • A music mentoring and support program for musicians from new refugee, immigrant and Indigenous Australian communities.
  • An integral part of a suite of programs run by Multicultural Arts Victoria’s Emerge Cultural Network, a program that supports artists from emerging communities.

THE PROBLEM(S) THE PROJECT ADDRESSES:

  • The project addresses a lack of resources and cultural platforms for musicians from refugee and migrant backgrounds and their communities in general.

CONCEPTION OF DIVERSITY OF CULTURAL EXPRESSIONS:

‘It is vitally important that we break down barriers and look at new ways to engage artists and communities from non-English speaking backgrounds in a very real way. It is about systemic change’ – Jill Morgan, Chief Executive Officer, Multicultural Arts Victoria.

PROCESS AND PARTICIPATION:

  • Well-established community networks identify talented musicians who could benefit from mentoring support aimed at helping them gain industry access.
  • Music mentoring programs lead to extended networks, lasting friendships and musical collaborations.
  • Flexible program design can be adapted to different needs, such as an individual’s career development or cultural maintenance for new community groups.

ACHIEVEMENTS IN TERMS OF THE CONVENTION:

  • Effective capacity building.
  • Policy initiative.
  • Building collaborative partnerships.
  • International engagement and exchange.
  • Advocacy for diversity of cultural expressions and the Convention.

WHAT IS DISTINCTIVE ABOUT VISIBLE?

  • Successful music mentoring program well matched to the needs of individual artists as well as communities.
  • Participants supported by a strong structure across various platforms within what MAV calls a ‘cultural network’.
  • Strong connections to other programs within Multicultural Arts Victoria, such as festivals, an artist agency, media outlets for music, and youth programs.

The other seven studies were of these projects:

The Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA) is an organisation which supports Aboriginal Art Centres across these regions, ‘working together to keep art, country and culture strong’.

The Arab Film Festival Australia (AFF), initiated by Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) in Parramatta, New South Wales, shares the stories and culture of the Arab world with diverse Australian audiences through film.

black&write! is a program based at the State Library of Queensland combining a national Indigenous writing fellowship with a mentoring program for Indigenous editors.

Edge of Elsewhere was a three-year contemporary visual art project of the Campbelltown Arts Centre and the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, commissioning artists from Australia, Asia and the Pacific to create new works that engage with the diverse communities of Sydney.

Kultour, an initiative of the Australia Council’s Arts in a Multicultural Australia program, is dedicated to touring innovative multicultural arts across all art forms. It aims to play a leadership role as national advocate, service organisation and in artist development.

Metaverse Makeovers, developed as a participatory artwork in which nail technicians and their clientele take part in a digitally augmented nail treatment triggered by a mobile device, has become a technology start-up company for digital cosmetics ‘appcessories’ in Asia.

TransLab was an initiative of the Australia Council’s Theatre section which supported the development of new intercultural and interdisciplinary performance through research and development residencies.

Published under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NonDerivative Works 2.5 License. P.Mar & I.Ang (2015) Promoting Diversity of Cultural Expressions in Arts in Australia, Sydney, Australia Council for the Arts.

For the entire report, go here: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/978817/diversity_of_cultural_expression_report.pdf

Author

Phillip Mar and Ien Ang 2015. Original title: Promoting Diversity of Cultural Expressions in Arts in Australia, Sydney, Australia Council for the Arts.

Date Published: April 17 2018

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