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Nawida Sultan. Nawida Sultan. Featured
10 May 2018 Posted by 

FLEEING WAR ZONES, LEFT BEHIND

Youth find harmony through art
WESTERN Sydney migrant youth are finding harmony through art.

The newly arrived youth, including some who fled war zones or left behind family in other countries to start over in Australia, have used art to express feelings of hope and positivity.

And their work was on display as part of the Harmony Art Collective, an inspiring public exhibition in Sydney’s Darling Quarter held last month. Here are some of their stories:

Shaqaeq Rezai

Born in Iran but living in Afghanistan, Shaqaeq always struggled to fit in.

“I was always treated like a criminal. My crime was that I wasn’t Afghanistani,” she said. “I was mistreated and treated as a foreigner. Also as a girl, I wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things.”

That included going to school. Under Iranian policy, as an Afghan, Shaqaeq’s only option for an education was to pay for expensive private tuition.

“Life was getting harder and harder so my father decided to come to Australia,” she said.

Shaqaeq’s father spent two years as an asylum seeker at Christmas Island while she and her five siblings and mother waited to join him. That wait, she now says, was worthwhile.

“My whole life is different now. In Australia, I am doing everything I always wanted to do. I can walk down the street, I can have an education, I can run my own business,” the Chester Hill local said.

At 17, Shaqaeq’s start-up business, Directa, is an online directory for newly arrived migrants looking for local resources to help them start over – from English classes to employment services.

“Even though Australia is a fantastic place, there are still challenges,” she said. “Our greatest challenge was to settle. I started volunteering at a community migrant centre and I found out I wasn’t the only person that didn’t know about programs to help you learn English or get a job.

Shaqaeq said she relished the opportunity to take part in the Harmony Art Collective. Her artwork - large petals surrounded by the words ‘heal’ - was inspired by her journey from Afghanistan.

Nawida Sultan

Leaving war-torn Afghanistan last year was bitter sweet for Nawida Sultan.

She was thrilled to be reuniting with her older brother in Australia but heartbroken to be leaving behind another sibling.

“Being in a battle zone was hard,” the quietly spoken 20-year-old said. Orphaned as a young girl, Nawida said: “I couldn’t study, I couldn’t go to school and I was teased because I had no parents.”

Now living in Guildford, Nawida has embraced her new life and hopes to study pharmacy or law when she completes her HSC in two years.

She said joining other participants in the Harmony Art Collective gave her a newfound confidence – and a new hobby in art.

Simon Shahin

Simon Shahin often wonders what his life would be like had he not left war ravaged Syria for a new life in Australia.

“Before life was good in Syria. There was a real sense of generosity across the country,” he said.

“I finished high school in 2011 and started university. By the end of my first year I started thinking of fleeing there. It was too threatening to go to university so I had little ability to enjoy studying, it was so disappointing. It was becoming a no-man’s zone.”

Initially Simon opted to go to Germany to take advantage of the country’s free education, but his application failed at the final hurdle.
Instead, his aunt sponsored the Shahins to join her in Australia. Fast forward three years and Edensor Park is home and Simon, 25, is now studying engineering at Western

Sydney University where he hopes to achieve a long-held dream of becoming a renewable energy engineer.

For the Harmony Art Collective, Simon created an abstract painting of two kidneys embracing to symbolise connection and bonding.

 



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Publisher and editor, Michael Walls.
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