Sharing stories from Multicultural Communities

“What sets worlds in motion is the interplay of differences, their attractions and repulsions. Life is plurality, death is uniformity. By suppressing differences and peculiarities, by eliminating different civilisations and cultures, progress weakens life and favours death.” – Octavio Paz

“Infinite diversity in infinite combinations… symbolising the elements that create truth and beauty. – Commander Spock, Star Trek

Migration and globalisation have brought diversity to societies all around the world. Although policies of assimilation have been implemented with the view to create a melting pot whereby one culture and people emerge, such notions were (rightly) discredited by the sheer reality that cultures survive!

And thank goodness for that. Diversity brings a richness of experience and perspective, of history, language and culture and, well, you bloody beaut tucker!

Worth lining up for (and wish I was there!). What a feast at the Africa Day celebrations festival, Rockhampton. Image by Dean Saffron.

Queensland is a multicultural State. It  is as true of its cities as it is of its regional and rural communities. These communities have not been passive participants in the development of Queensland, but active members contributing to our history and future way of life.

Of course life is constantly in a state of change, not to mention a state of flux.  Similarly, culture is ever evolving and changing making the representation of diversity and our cultural interactions more complex. Yet, the sharing of cultural information provides us with the effective means to interact and cooperate with one another.

Grape stomping competition (looks like fun!) at the Australian-Italian Festival, Ingham. Image by Sarah Scragg.

There are many ways that we transmit cultural information from direct learning to casual observation. Multicultural festivals are ways in which we directly transmit cultural information for they are not only places which allow for a public celebration showcasing diverse ethnic cultures of local communities; but they are also places for dialogue and exchange, helping us negotiate the notions of identity and belonging, as well as exclusion and disadvantage.

They reveal to us where cultures  merge and diverge, creating reciprocally beneficial experiences and relationships in the process.

The gorgeous Ka Maeva Cook Island dance group at the The Pacific Unity Festival, Logan. Image by Reuben Stafford.

Through a “Your Community Heritage Program’ grant, from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Australian Government, we embarked on a project entitled “Sharing stories from Multicultural Communities.” We hoped to highlight just a few of the wonderful multicultural festivals which are held throughout Queensland. The result was a rich collection of photographs and oral histories from established and new migrant groups sharing their culture through festivals.

The 29203 Sharing Stories from Multicultural Communities Photo Essays and Oral Histories, 2013-2014 is available on our online catalogue.  See the Link to the record and the Link to the digital item .

There is also a  multicultural showcase for this collection on our website. It showcases only some of the images that are available in their entirety through our online catalogue. It also includes the oral histories.

Thanks to Sarah Scragg, Reuben Stafford and Dean Saffron who completed the brilliant photo essays and Jan Cattoni, Jennifer Barrkman and Hamish Sewell for recording the wonderful oral histories. Thanks also to the organisers of the Australian-Italian Festival, The Pacific Unity Festival, Queensland and Africa Day celebrations,  for their cooperation and assistance!

Zenovia Pappas – Contemporary Collecting Coordinator, State Library of Queensland