9 November 2023

Join a visual odyssey of freedom and connection through the lenses of refugee youth in Wagga

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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woman with photos in library

Dalal Shamosulaiman is one of 15 multicultural youths showcasing her photographs at Wagga Wagga City Library. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

A new photography exhibition by 15 multicultural youth group members in Wagga captures hopes, challenges, freedom and connection.

The multicultural photography exhibition Azadi (freedom) was unveiled at Wagga Wagga City Library recently. The title was selected by the group because Azadi is a word shared across the first languages of all group members.

The photographers are aged 18-25 and from various refugee backgrounds. They are showcasing two photographs, each highlighting the challenges they have faced and the hope Wagga provides as their new home.

The group has been learning photography skills, serving not only as a medium for artistic expression but as a catalyst for building connections with others, fostering a sense of community, and underscoring the transformative power of art as a force for positive change.

Aspiring Yizidi photographer Dalal Shamosulaiman moved to Wagga from Turkey 18 months ago.

“We’ve been doing the photography course for about two months, and I have enjoyed every moment,” Dalal said. “It was nice to meet new people from other cultures and hear about what they’ve done and are doing.

“All of us feel better and happier together.”

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Dalal said the photography course had benefited her mental health.

“It’s been good [for my mental health]. It’s the first time I’ve been doing something different with photography.

“I didn’t know how to take photos, and now I feel like I’ve improved how to take them.”

While driving around Borooma, Dalal saw the horses depicted in one of her photos.

“I went to see them and took pictures because the experience of seeing them was touching for me, and I would like to share these beautiful souls with everyone,” she said.

“I took the hand reflection photo while we were around the apartments in Wagga. It’s my hand and my friend’s hand.”

The 20-year-old said she loved living in Wagga.

“We come from different countries, and it’s hard the first time to live in a big city,” Dalal said.

“People in Wagga are friendly, smile all the time and are very helpful.

“I feel like it’s now my city and my country.”

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The multicultural youth group was established as a partnership program between Wagga Wagga City Council’s multicultural services officer, Maryanne Gray, Wagga Wagga City Library and STARTTS (Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors).

Ms Gray taught the young people photography skills for eight weeks, taking them out and photographing around Central Wagga.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching photography skills to these enthusiastic and lovely young people,” she said.

“This youth group transcends any language barriers; their happiness is infectious, and they are all very supportive and accepting of each other. It’s good vibes all around.”

STARTTS Wagga Wagga youth worker Kellie Chapman said she had enjoyed building relationships with each youth group member.

“I love the energy and enthusiasm the group displays,” Ms Chapman said.

“Despite coming from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, the group has grown very comfortable with each other, sharing jokes and offering each other support as they begin their journey here in making Wagga Wagga their new home.”

The Azadi exhibition is on the shelves of Wagga Wagga City Library’s art and craft collection until 19 December.

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