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Coffs Harbour - A Community Walking in Two Worlds

All that I am, was, could and will be… won’t you take a walk with me…

From the oldest living inhabitants, the Gumbaynggirr people, to newly-arrived people from refugee backgrounds, through waves of migration and everyone in between, everyone has a story about who they are and how they came to call Coffs Harbour home.

Gathering those stories, with the assistance of a grant of $25,000 from the Regional Arts Fund, has been the rewarding task of Naomi Steinborner and Andrew Davis of Two Thumbs Up Projects.  The two creatives moved to the mid north coast in 2011 and have been a consolidating force for community arts and cultural development in the region.

Walking in Two Worlds is a multi-arts project working with young people from diverse cultural backgrounds from the Coffs Harbour region, including Aboriginal young people and multicultural young people from refugee backgrounds. It culminated this week in performances at a local high school and at Coffs Harbour’s Harmony Day celebrations. The performances followed on from a successful outing at the Saltwater Freshwater Festival in January.

Naomi said Coffs Harbour is in a state of tremendous growth with rapid transformation of its cultural complexion.

‘This project is just the beginning of an exploration of this growing diversity while acknowledging and respecting the cultural integrity of each individual and group.

‘Through the mediums of visual arts, film, theatre and performance, Walking in Two Worlds took a journey into individual and community cultural identity through the eyes of our young people,’ Naomi said.

During the project Gumbaynggirr artist Alison Williams worked with young people from both Aboriginal and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) refugee backgrounds responding to what ‘walking in two worlds’ means to them.

Two large murals with artwork were created, alongside a film by Dhagaay Yundaii media’s, Jenny Ellis in conversation with participants and other locals. Naomi and Andrew directed a performance with Orara High School students with the entire project installed at the high school’s auditorium. On one of the hottest days of the year and with no air conditioning, Naomi says this turned out to be very challenging.

‘But the cast performed beautifully: students and staff were impressed by these young people who had worked away on the project for two terms, and the scale of the murals,’ she said.

Naomi said on Saturday night everyone was very excited to be in the theatre for the first time as part of Coffs Harbour City Council’s Harmony Day celebrations.

‘We opened the festival at the Jetty Theatre in front of a very warm audience. It was definitely the highlight for many of the performers and they blew everyone away with their professionalism and talents.’

Naomi said the murals were installed to be the backdrop for the Harmony Day Festival at the Botanic Gardens on Sunday but unfortunately the event was rained out.

‘It was moved to Jetty High School, but the benefit has been that our murals have remained up for a few days longer to allow people to view the beautiful art work. We will have temporary exhibitions in a few locations around town over the coming months with a number of offers for a permanent home,’ she added.

‘The ultimate focus has been on community empowerment, cultural celebration, development of local artists and leaders, the creation of powerful, authentic and inspiring artworks and multiple partners working toward social cohesion and future economic development.’

‘Everyone has embraced this, and together we’ve achieved what we set out to do.’

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