Multicultural Arts Victoria

by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Published in Music Forum magazine, Vol 19 Issue 1 (November 2012)

Dereb Desalegn at Emerge Festival Fitzroy 2011.  Photo by DWV

 Who We Are and What We Do

‘...cultural diversity creates a rich and varied world, which increases the range of choices and nurtures human capacities and values, and therefore is a mainspring for sustainable development for communities, peoples and nations.’ - UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions 2005.

Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV) is Victoria's peak arts organisation promoting cultural diversity in the arts. We are a not for profit organisation and proudly represent artists and communities from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Multicultural Arts Victoria has in four decades made a unique contribution to the Arts in Victoria and beyond.

Multicultural Arts Victoria produces and promotes an outstanding high quality culturally diverse artistic program. We provide vital connections, support structures and pathways that enable culturally diverse artists and communities to create exceptional art, and we play a critical advocacy role in providing a forum, through the arts, to ensure acceptance and understanding of cultural diversity. We’ve developed a reputation for delivering high quality art and cultural product. The organisation continues to grow as a celebration of diverse and dynamic multicultural arts - a celebration of multiculturalism.

MAV offers opportunities and support structures to more than 1,600 individual artists, 1,000 artistic groups and more than 400 communities from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. as well as showcasing their amazing talents to the public at large. We organize around 300 events each year which attract a total audience of more than 800,000 people, and we connect to 10,000 MAV friends through our initiatives and social media.

Some of our recent projects include ‘Emerge Festival’ and our continuing ‘Visible’ mentoring program. The annual Emerge Festival held in June and July has just completed its ninth year of activities. Included in a month long celebration of multiculturalism and the talents of our recently arrived migrant and refuge communities, the Emerge festival includes art exhibitions, film screenings, artist mentoring projects, skills development workshops, and two large multi-stage one day community music festivals. Events are held in various locations around Victoria - the Fitzroy Town Hall, the City of Dandenong and Shepparton.

The social, economic, cultural and artistic benefits that flow from these events have enriched local communities and the wider Victorian community.

Multicultural Arts Victoria’s ‘Visible’ music mentoring has given a kick start to many new and emerging musicians from various cultural backgrounds. It’s been running for six years, and has linked more than fifty artists who have come to Australia from countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Tibet, Timor and a number of other countries.

Highly experienced established musicians and producers help the newly arrived artists to develop new music, performance, recording, music business and management skills.

One of the greatest success stories of the mentoring project has been the emergence of the Ethiopian born master musician/singer Dereb Desalegn. Says Dereb:

In Ethiopia I could live and be greatly respected as a musician whereas in Australia it has been problematic due to the lack of exposure and understanding by the western community for our style of has been difficult to find opportunities to play for my people and for Australian people and many of the young in my community are losing interest in music of their culture. I appreciate the support MAV has given in working to keep the culture of Ethiopians alive and strong and bringing our people together to share with our fellow Australians.

Dereb left a successful music career behind him in Ethiopia when he came to live in Australia. He was working as a security guard and was feeling frustrated that he could not find a ‘place’ for his music in Australia. In the Visible project in 2005 Dereb was linked with well-l known professional musician Nicky Bomba and they formed a band featuring Australian and Ethiopian musicians and recorded an album which won them the rare opportunity to perform at Womadelaide, WOMAD UK and WOMAD Singapore. They also toured to Spain for Womex in 2006, Ethiopia in 2006, toured nationally around Australia through the ‘kultour’ multicultural arts touring network in 2008 and opened the Melbourne International Arts Festival in 2008.

Other successes to date from the Emerge program have included Khaled Abdulwahab who began as a trainee for Emerge. His group Diafrix was one of the first groups in our Visible mentoring program. Khaled won the Young Leaders Award at the Australia Council whilst at MAV. Diafrix has now established itself as one of Australia’s most exciting and original award winning live Hip-Hop acts.

As well as supporting numerous professional musicians like Dereb and Khaled , the Visible project has assisted many community music groups including choirs from the Sudanese, East Timorese, West Papuan and Sierra Leone communities as well as community bands from Ethiopian, Oromo, Eritrean, Sudanese and Congolese communities.

In January 2012 Multicultural Arts Victoria moved from its old home at the Fitzroy Town Hall into new premises at the South Melbourne Town Hall, where we now have much more space and the possibility to further develop our artistic programs for both emerging and established artists. We have a passionate and dedicated staff of twelve led by Chief Executive Officer Jill Morgan.

Despite the funding pressures that hit all Arts organisations including ours, we continue to grow and have a strong list of projects planned for the future. We’re exploring new opportunities, partnering with other arts organisations, expanding into regional areas, developing international networks, mentoring artists, and growing audiences for an exciting range of musical styles.

Paul Petran Is the Artistic Program Manager at Multicultural Arts Victoria.