Celebration of World Migratory Bird Day 2022 in Australia: Stories of Home

In the 2022 WMBD October event, Australian Artist Kate Gorringe-Smith organised an interactive exhibition “Stories of Home” at the Joel Gallery, Louis Joel Arts and Community Centre. In the opening event of the Wall of Wings exhibition, about 50 people including the Mayor of Hobsons Bay, Cr Peter Hemphill. joined and celebrated the wonders of migratory waterbirds.

Walls of Wings Exhibition at Joel Gallery ©️ The Overwintering Project

The exhibition and print making workshop was organized and facilitated by Ms. Kate Gorringe-Smith, with co-creators Jessica Tanto, Program Co-ordinator Connections Art Space (CAS), Dandenong (a small community-based art organisation); Chichi Nwokocha (poetry workshop facilitator): Elena Dimascolo (Dandenong High School Learning Specialist, Transitional EAL); Somayeh Farahani (Dandenong High School student support teacher and translator); Rebecca McPherson (Dandenong High School Art Teacher); Helen Timbury (Poetry booklet designer)

35 refugee students aged 14-18 from Dandenong High School participated in poetry and printmaking workshops where they were introduced to the concept of migratory shorebirds through class presentations and information from BirdLife Australia.

Students during the printmaking workshop ©️ The Overwintering Project

The students performed their poems to school assemblies (c. 500 students, staff and families), and three students performed their poems at the opening event of the Wall of Wings exhibition to a crowd of c. 50 people including the Mayor of Hobsons Bay, Cr Peter Hemphill.

The class of 35 students also visited the exhibition to see the Wall of Wings and learn more about migratory shorebirds on October 12 2022. Each child received a printed booklet of the poems, illustrated by the linocuts the other students had made. 30 poetry booklets were purchased over the duration of the exhibition.

Pieces from the Wall of Wings Exhibition ©️ The Overwintering Project

The 2022 iteration of Stories of Home, workshops, exhibition and performance was a great experience. It was a great opportunity to work with a large school with a diverse community and introduce the story of migratory shorebirds to students, staff and families. The school was very pleased with the outcome and, despite Dandenong and Altona being on opposite sides of Melbourne, made the effort firstly to bring the three students who performed to the exhibition opening on October 8 and the entire class of 35 students to the gallery.

Chichi Nwokocha, who ran the poetry workshop, write to me: ‘It went very well! The class was filled with beautiful and thoughtful young adults. We were able to achieve a group poem and most finished their individual poems. The response from the teacher’s was very positive and they have asked me back.’ (email September 8 2022) and ‘I believe the students were happy, especially by the end of the workshop. Many of the students wanted to share or have their poems read out loud. It was a transformative experience for myself and Angelita who led the first half of the workshop. I am looking to go back and work on spoken word / performance at some point…They showed me the artwork as well, well done they were beautiful.’ (email, September 9 2022)

Artists preparing for the Wall of Wings Exhibition ©️ The Overwintering Project

The students themselves seemed very pleased and happy at both workshops and I think the performance was a particularly important way to mark their achievements.

It was also the first time that CAS workers had been introduced to the migratory shorebird story. We are in discussion for options to run the workshop again in the future, possibly with young people again or with adults. Jessica Tanto, CAS Programs Coordinator write in an email to me ‘I would be very interested in an iteration of a similar project in the future! This project turned out so well and resulted in such beautiful works. I would be very excited to re-envision how we can innovate this project to different age groups, communities, and possibly add on different artistic mediums like theater or dance too!’ (Nov. 30)

Somayeh Farahani (Dandenong High School student support teacher and translator) works with a group of Iranian refugee women in Dandenong and we are also discussing the possibility of extending the Stories of Home idea with her group.

If I ran the project again I would also hope to take the participants to see the birds, but we were unfortunately unable to organize that in this instance.

For more picture of the Wall of Wings Exhibition, search #wallofwingsmigratoryshorebirds on Facebook.

Article by Kate Gorringe-Smith

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