A celebration of cultures

Recently we celebrated Cultural Diversity Week and in the same week we celebrated with the Emerge festival (part of SheppARTon festival) and Harmony Day here in our very diverse region of Shepparton.
Attending some of these events reminded me of why I love this region so much. Many peoples from all over the world now live in Shepparton. I am grateful for the richness that it brings my family and I and the friends it gives us.

(I was not the official photographer at any of these events but rather there to participate but I did end up taking just a few photos upon requests from friends and their  communities. There were many more happenings and many other cultures at these events than what is pictured here)

This young lady had only been in the country 2 weeks reunited with her mother. Some new friends of her dressed her in Afghani clothes and she joined them in the dancing

Following on is just a tiny snippet of the start of the Emerge Festival and a little bit more. I was there as part of the Living Recipes Project and with the Sikhs.
Emerge is a day that brings people from all backgrounds together to dance and sing, eat and experience, connect, learn about each other and grow together. It’s my favourite day of the year and is part of the Shepparton Festival.

A Reconciliation march leads the way into the Emerge festival

A young man tells his Afghani family story during his welcome to the Emerge Festival

An amazing display of Gatka – Sikh Martial Arts

The Sikh community tied turbans for hours and hours on end – many many people wanted to have a turban experience – even the police

Langar (common kitchen) meal experience – a free meal is given as part of the Sikh faith – to feed others regardless of their background – all are equal

An arabian experience where people could try on the clothes and try some coffee plus a whole lot more. Thank you Alkasem Youth Organisation

Many people gathered to watch music, do activities or eat and meet other people

A stage of many musicians from many different backgrounds drew large grounds well into the night


In reflection one evening –

Celebrate Connect and Grow as read on the back of a tshirt at the Emerge Festival – yes that’s what this is about

This photo was shot by Jamile when I was very tired but very content late at night when I got home from Emerge – Shepparton Festival. I really didn’t want to take off these beautiful clothes. My new friend Gupreet Singh (who I met doing the Living Recipes Project for the festival) during the week so kindly encouraged me to let his wife dress me for the festival. And then at the festival I added the turban as so many others did too. As I wandered the festival I had others say they had clothes at home too from different lands they’d visited and wished they’d worn theirs too but decided to do so next year. Mary, a Sudanese lady said next time they want to dress me African, and others want to dress me Afghani. Let’s see what it will be. I hope others might do the same.

Emerge is my absolute favourite event of the year - It was also Harmony Day and Afghani New Year – very fitting.
The day for me began with a smoking ceremony and reconciliation walk – walking together down to the lake having converstaions along the way . It was lovely when a group of young sikh men ran over and joined in bringing a big smile to an Aboriginal woman I was walking beside.
And that was just the start of the day….
How do you put into words the feelings I have within me from such a day that brings people from all lands together to dance and sing, eat and experience, connect and learn about each other and grow together? It’s the most favourite thing of my existence for this to happen. I hope others can come and experience and observe, feel and have the courage to let go and be part of, to be open to stepping forward to join in, to experience, to have the conversations and take time getting to know each other at any chance you get in this region or any region you live or visit.
My children and I are so much richer in our lives for this. Every person has a story, every place has a story.

I value being a photographer that gives me the opportunity to meet and get to know people and their ways, their uniqueness at a deeper level and bring their stories to light for others. During the SheppARTon festival I got to do the Living Recipes project (which I hope to share online soon with you) and loved this very much - photostories, a short film and recipes around food and culture. I really hope I can go futher with this with this project.

When I first came to this region 23 years ago travelling around Australia coming to Shepparton to fruit pick when I ran out of money I never thought I’d stay so long – I never thought I’d learn to love this place and it’s people so much. Today this town is part of me and who I am and yes perhaps you do have to look closely to truly see what is here but it’s weeks like Cultural Diversity week and the Emerge and the Shepparton festival events that help bring it right out right in front of you.

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