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A colourful gift for Malawi

30 Apr 2019

A colourful gift for Malawi Image

By Rhonda Dredge

A container painted in a freeform modernist style left Docklands last month with large African portraits to guide it on its way across the world.

The colourful gift was heading towards Malawi with a load of medical and school equipment inside.

Sean Car, director of Educaring Africa, organised the shipment and its residency on Harbour Esplanade as artists gathered for a week of creative expression.

“This is a big, bold idea, something colourful for the community,” Sean told Docklands News.

Ethiopian-born artist Tamirat Gebremariam supervised the art project. He has a particular affinity with both community and belonging.

“I’m here because Melbourne has more culture and diversity,” Tamirat said. He moved to Melbourne 10 years ago leaving the rest of his family in Sydney.

“I come from a large family. We’re 12 with my mother in the middle. I belong here. I started the portraits to create my own family.”

Community art offers scope to those who wish to combine artistic and communitarian skills. Tam joined Sean, also director of Hyperlocal News, in his vision to help develop communities in Africa.

Educaring Africa has built a medical clinic at Chizula village at Monkey Bay.

“Without this container the clinic can’t operate,” Sean said. Nearby schools will also benefit with the gift of desks and chairs. “They only have enough classrooms for half the population.”

Students and passers-by took to the container with spray cans and stencils in a project that will culminate in the establishment of a Rotary Club at Docklands. Rotary helped fund the project.

Tam arrived in Australia 20 years ago from Cairo. In the old days he preferred international-style modernism with texture and gestures. Now he has gone more figurative to honour his new community.

He currently has an exhibition of portraits on at Melton for a multicultural festival. His career demonstrates how difficult the life of an immigrant artist can be.

When he first arrived in Melbourne it was at the time of the Black Saturday bushfires.

“There was horrible heat. I was watching TV. I was very emotional and sad,” he said. “I went to Marysville and took pictures and made sketches a week or two after.”

These became the basis for a series of large gestural paintings he did for a Master of Visual Art at the Victorian College of the Arts.

“I think it was challenging. I have a skill and I captured the moment. It was not about me. It was where I belong. I was confronting the difficulties of a new place.”

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