HEAR OUR VOICE: Creatives demanding visibility
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HEAR OUR VOICE: Creatives demanding visibility

Issues/Arts & Culture , Stories/134
Sydney NSW, Australia
21st Jul 2017
HEAR OUR VOICE: Creatives demanding visibility
Alexandra Mantoura's HEAR OUR VOICE is a photographic campaign demanding representation for creatives in Sydney.

As soon I moved back home to Sydney from Melbourne, I started feeling the culture shift. In recent years, the backbones of our city - culture, creativity and the arts - have been forced to take a backseat. Artistic expression seems stifled with the stench of a nanny state. Tourism is pedestalised to the extent that Sydney no longer has a sense of public space, unless that space is geared towards making money.

The public needs to recognise that the arts are critical to both the health and identity of our city; they rouse diversity, community and inclusivity especially among young people. With this in mind, I initiated a campaign called HEAR OUR VOICE.

HEAR OUR VOICE empowers creatives in Sydney through photography and street art. It gives us a voice using mediums that we are already comfortable with. This is representation on our own terms. My aim is to have our voices heard not only in spaces that are already inclusive, but out on the streets.

I’ve witnessed firsthand how powerful street art is as a medium for creative representation and expression. Through portrait photography and personal written reflections, we can collaboratively create a street art initiative to ensure that we are both seen and heard.

Young creatives, let’s demand visibility.

ALEXANDRA MANTOURA: Campaign creator, photographer and fine artist

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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura. Artist's page: here.

“What if you called up a plumber asking if they could fix a leaky pipe but you didn’t have the budget to pay for their services? AHA! You come up with an ingenious plan; just pay the plumber through exposure. Post a photograph of him fixing your pipe (linked with his business name, of course!) onto your website, Instagram and Facebook. Problem solved, right?

This exact situation is all too familiar to me as an artist. Young creatives are being exploited and undervalued. Businesses sugarcoat unpaid work with promises of exposure and experience. They know that the arts are a competitive playground where jobs are scarce and paid jobs are even rarer, so they take advantage for their own financial gain.

In Sydney, the unattainable cost of living makes budding creative even more desperate to succeed. The desire for the dollar ironically pushes us to work for nothing. Accepting these unpaid roles hurts everyone else in the creative community, and those most affected are the youth.”

ELIJAH-EL KAHL: Photographer

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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura. Elijah's page: here.

“The people in parliament will most likely die from natural causes or an overdose of methamphetamine long before I will get king hit in Sydney. My generation will be the ones running this city one day. But if we aren’t given the chance to flourish because of the restrictions of ridiculous laws, financial issues and doubt from the powers that be, how can we progress as people? Perhaps it’s better to reframe this question with an example: how do you expect anyone to buy or rent overpriced homes even in less wealthy areas, if there is a lockout law that prevents the hospitality and entertainment industries from functioning?

I understand that in order to succeed, we must be diligent and disciplined. But we should not be bullied into thinking that the sweat from our brow means nothing, while our government tries their best to make money in ways that are problematic and lethal to the economics and culture of Sydney. If you don’t want a dull and depressing city that can’t afford to move out of their parent’s homes; help us help you. It’s time for the pen-pushers to leave early from their two-hour lunch breaks and actually learn about their own citizens.”

KATHERINE VAVAHEAR: Singer, songwriter and musician

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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura. Katherine's page: here.

“I come from an artistic and creative family on both sides. Being a multi-racial woman with First Nations, Native American Apache tribe, Indigenous Pacific Island Fijian, Tongan, Mexican, English, African and Irish heritage, you can't really put me in a single category.

There is a definite lack of representation of women of colour and people of colour in mainstream film and television as well as in the arts in general. Especially here in Australia, our very own Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities are completely underrepresented. Studying the arts at an Indigenous college campus helped me connect more with my own cultural roots and develop a greater appreciation of our own First Nations Peoples and their ancient, rich and beautiful culture. Everyone should develop a knowledge and understanding of the culture and protocols. Let's be the change we seek in the world.” 

MARLENA DALI: Performance artist and life clown

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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura. Marlena's page: here.

“Representation in government is the key to a healthy society. I reflect on government from looking at the world of performing arts, which is where I come from. Almost all major circus and cabaret shows in Australia are geared towards a white heterosexual cis male audience because guess who produces these shows? When that happens, there are fewer QTIPOC centred in shows let alone represented at all. If the majority of folks in government were Aboriginal femmes, the environment would be protected as if we relied on it, which we do, and there certainly wouldn't be people being tortured in detention centres. As a relatively recent immigrant and performance maker in Australia, I hope to help with representation in the arts by producing shows like The Oyster Club: Glamdrogynous Freakshow and providing a platform for queer and marginalised performers. I will build a wall of queer artists and all of us, all holding strong together, are going to push against the kyriarchy.”

KIERAN RAMSEY: Filmaker and screenwriter

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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura

“Okay what to say other than fuck Sydney?

I feel like I have a panic attack every time I see a for sale sign now. I’m walking around in limbo having not realised what everyone else already knows about this city - that the life I wanted for myself here doesn't exist anymore. I’m reminded of every time the rent ticks up a dollar or two, or that luxury apartments are built on the bodies of foreclosed venues, or whenever someone who could be one of my grandparents assists me at the self service checkout. My situation is not special. I’m surrounded by people my age who are much stronger than I am, who want change in their world for the better and are willing to demand it. I don’t know if I have a future here.”

CLAYTON MCBRIDE: Filmaker, poet and lyricist 

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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura. Clayton's page: here.

“Fed up with art critics deciding what your art means? Tired of being told when and where you can make art? Are you just over being told what to make art about? The bureaucrats, who erode art’s value, leach off its wealth, take ownership, turn your art into a product and then sell it along with your rights. Brands on vendettas, seeking to crush opponents and protect brand identity. Critics who wish to kennel you, leash you and dictate what you make. Those who attempt to regulate your artistic practice, erode your ownership and control your voice. Do not forget who we are. We are the historians of our culture, the people, our heritage and most importantly the voice that questions our surroundings. Now do you see why they are so scared of us? We have the power to motivate the minds of a nation and for that reason they want our mouths shut and brought into alignment with a code of conduct. You can disguise your iron shackles as paper work. I wont put them on.”

BEAUTRICE MCBRIDE: Singer, songwriter and musician

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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura. Beatrice's page: here.

“Sydney seems to rely on its tourism. Its beaches, the harbours, the landmarks...and they are completely amazing but they don't encourage a thriving nightlife or a strong and diverse art scene. I feel like the cost of living is so high in this city and people are just so focused on money that art falls by the way side. We also have an incredibly corrupt government - just look at the lockout laws. It’s insanity but I think people are starting to push back - they have to otherwise this city will end up culturally dead.”


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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura. James' page: here.

"I think a lot of art fails to communicate. So people end up seeing art as a decorative measure, rather than something that deals with ideas. If you want something pretty, that’s fine, but art should be more than that. It should punch at least a part of you, right in the face and leave you reeling from the shock."

ALEXANDRA HAVAS: Writer and editor

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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura

“A few weeks ago, Martin Place’s Safe Space Kitchen was forcibly removed by Sydney Council. How can a space ensuring the safety of female-identifying rough sleepers and offering anyone shelter, free food and community be considered a public nuisance? Developers feel threatened because their construction site neighbours a makeshift shelter for the homeless. Visitors get the “wrong idea” when they see beyond the façade of our tourist-hungry harbour city. Suits heading home via Martin Place feel uncomfortable the moment they realise that homelessness isn’t always invisible. Well, discomfort is good. Discomfort is necessary. Discomfort is sometimes the only thing separating us from extreme indifference. Our city’s compassion towards homeless people is predicated upon their invisibility - what are we going to do about it?”

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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura 
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Photo: Alexandra Mantoura 

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