Sydney’s Iraqi community comes together in harmony and celebration
For the sixth time, the Shanasheel Iraqi Cultural Festival took over the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre on Sunday November 18, 2018 in a unifying celebration of Iraqi arts and culture.
Festival director Firas Naji said storytelling plays a significant role in the festival each year, as it allows the Iraqi-Australian community to take control of their own narrative, counteracting the often negative representations in mainstream media.
“The only mention us when there’s a war, violence or atrocities committed,” he explained.
This is our chance to tell our own story, so it’s about self-representation.
A main feature of Sunday’s event was Dr Munjed al Muderis, who arrived in Australia as an asylum seeker and has since become one of Australia’s top Orthopaedic Surgeons.
He spoke about his experiences of suffering from oppression in Iraq before leaving the nation for Australia as an asylum seeker, during which Dr Al Muderis was detained on Christmas Island.
The festival also showcased the Iraqi Short Film Festival, a collection of award-winning short films by Iraqis in Australia and overseas telling their own stories in drama.
There was also a community art mural which was completed by people from various Iraqi cultural groups and explored their connections to Iraq and Australia.
The Bazaar of Baghdad was another key feature of the event, which showcased folkloric performances by a number of Iraqi cultural groups, such as Kurdish, Arabic or Ma’dan peoples.
“Iraq is a success story of organic multiculturalism, which is a grassroots multicultural society,” Firas explained.
For hundreds of years, there has been this amazing diversity of different ethnicities, cultures and languages, so we want to celebrate that.
The word “Shanasheel” in the event title works to help the festival achieve this, and despite referring specifically to an ancient architectural structure that works as a private balcony in cities across Iraq, it means much more to the Sydney event.
“It’s very colourful and engaging and we thought that the festival helps to do this as kind of a broader interface between the Australian community and the Iraqi community,” Firas said.
“There are many Iraqi festivals in Australia, but they are really geared towards a single cultural group, but this is the only festival that embraces all Iraqis regardless of their ethnicity and culture, while also celebrating all these different cultures in coming together.”
Check out the Shanasheel Iraqi Festival website HERE for more information.