Greeks instrumental in giving voice to the arts

first_imgIn a state as culturally rich and diverse as Victoria, the arts community has thrived with the infiltration of fine arts from many vast and varied cultures throughout the world. Paul Clarkson, former executive director, Arts Victoria, made sure that this rich tapestry of artistic work throughout the years was documented. The book Giving Voice: A History of Multicultural Arts Victoria was born.“Multicultural Arts Victoria started in 1973 as the Festival of all Nations and Mike Zafiropoulos was one of the key movers in establishing this,” Jill Morgan, executive officer, Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV) told Neos Kosmos.“Seven communities got together and under the auspices of Fitzroy City Council,” explains Mike Zafiropoulos, former chairman of MAV, of the festival. “We decided to stage a festival that would include reflections and representations of the cultures of the seven communities involved. That set the foundations for future annual festivals that kept on growing to the point that within a decade we had more than 50 cultural groups taking part.”As one of the first major migrant groups in Australia – along with the Italians – the Greeks were key movers and participants in the establishment of multicultural arts. Zafiropoulos himself was fundamental in not only the enhancement of artistic endeavours of the Greek community but fundamental in the creation of multicultural arts as a whole in Victoria.Zafiropoulos said the time had a lot a to do with it. It was the 1970s and the Whitlam Government had multiculturalism on their agenda thanks to then Immigration Minister Al Grassby.“This created an open forum for cultural organisations to start organising themselves in a way that took them away from the narrow boundaries of their own community,” explains Zafiropoulos.“They started to interact with other groups and wanting to expose their own cultural traditions and richness to the wider community. “Prior to that we had lots of cultural activities, but they were mainly within our own communities and sometimes within the narrow geographical boundaries of the particular communities and regions.”“There have been many influential people of Greek heritage who have seen the arts as being pivotal in exploring identity and bringing people together,” says Morgan. People such as Mike Zafiropoulos, George Papadopoulos, former chair of MAV; John Boglis and Fotis Kapetopoulos have all been instrumental people of Greek heritage who have contributed to the strong multicultural arts community in Melbourne.Morgan says the book itself “talks about the importance of bringing a migrant voice out to what was then a very mono-cultural community”. Funded by the Sydney Myer Fund, Victorian Multicultural Commission and Arts Victoria, the book is a visual journey through the history of multicultural arts. Images of Melbourne in eras gone by are accentuated with strong images of a Kurdish folkloric dancer, an Argentinean drummer or a Sudanese guitarist. It is a testament to the remarkable creativity, hard work and passion of many people that celebrates four decades of Multicultural Arts Victoria.Zafiropoulos takes the title of founder of MAV with modesty and respect.“But remember,” he adds, “people’s achievements have to be seen in context of the time. I think the credit should go to people like Al Grassby who saw the need for this country to embrace cultural diversity and abandon assimilation which had failed. So for me it was quite easy to pick up on the policy from the Federal Government and interpret it in our own way, in a practical and community sense.”“The book represents the extraordinary breadth of talent in the community and the quality of arts that’s presented. Now we have an extraordinary range of new communities from the horn of Africa to the established communities to the Colombian to Maori to Middle Eastern, Indigenous, Indian,” says Morgan.“It wasn’t very difficult for the cultural organisations to truly collaborate,” explains Zafiropoulos. “Some groups might have had differences back home but those differences became insignificant when we saw our collaborations on all of us here within our adopted countries. It showed it is possible to collaborate if you set objectives and criteria that encourage that collaboration.“The (Festival of All Nations) was the most demonstrable example of both the richness that we had as individual communities and how – through development, encouragement and promotion – we could develop an Australian culture, a culture that would not be mono-cultural, a culture that would draw on the various ethnic communities that we have in this country.”With so many influential and passionate people involved, multicultural arts in Victoria is going to have a long and rich history. Morgan says an interesting thing that is evolving now is that established multicultural arts communities are now becoming leaders and mentors to some of the newer communities and providing inspiration for them.“If it wasn’t for the work of some of the established communities like the Greek community, we wouldn’t be existing and giving a voice wouldn’t be happening. “That’s why I think the history is important as it documents the key achievements of multiculturalism which is reflected through MAV.” Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more

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