Monthly Archives: May 2014

Light and shadows in Iran and Australia: artist Hadieh Afshani



Hadieh Afshani always wanted to be an artist since she was a little girl growing up in Iran. After studying art and showcasing her work in Iranian galleries, Hadieh migrated to Australia with her then-boyfriend. The personal themes of Hadieh’s artwork changed from her life in Iran to her experiences as a migrant in Australia. Feeling isolated in a new country, Hadieh’s paintings show empty rooms and shadows.

Hadieh launched her art exhibition, the Hope tree, at the Queensland Conservatorium of Art last Friday. Before the exhibition, I met Hadieh to talk about the differences between being an artist in Australia and Iran, and her life experiences that shaped her artwork.

Hadieh’s exhibition is showing until Saturday May 31 at the Project Gallery at the Queensland Conservatorium of Art at South Bank, Brisbane. Click here for more details.

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hadiehs paintings


Kicking butts and taking names: Maria Tran, associate producer of all-Asian Australian TV series Maximum Choppage


Asian Aussie martial arts fans rejoice – Maximum Choppage is coming to our screens later this year. Maximum Choppage is a martial arts TV comedy set in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, starring Lawrence Leung and supported by an all-Asian Australian cast.

It caused quite a buzz as a callout was posted in Asian Australian communities for specifically Asian Australian extras to be part of the show.

Maria Tran

from Maria’s IMDB page

Maria Tran (above) is one of the brains behind Maximum Choppage, and also showcases her martial arts skills in the show. Maximum Choppage is one of many film projects Maria is working on as part of her mission to get more Asian Australian faces on screen.

Maria tells us about the martial arts community in Cabramatta that contributed to Maximum Choppage, who ended up responding to the extras callout and why her films feature tough, butt-kicking Asian women.

Plus hear about how Maria’s character Kim Cuc in her short film Hot Bread Shop was based on her very own Mum!

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A Cuppa with Marziya, co-founder of the English Tea Project


Marziya Mohammadi’s family came to Australia as refugees from Afghanistan when she was a young teenager. Although Marziya learned how to speak English at school, she became concerned about her elderly mother who lacked English skills and found everyday tasks challenging.

With the help of her friends, Marziya created The English Tea Project – an informal English language class for immigrant women to learn, make friends and chat over tea.

Marziya herself has been quite vocal about refugee rights and has spoken on television, radio and events around Australia.

She tells us about how she overcame her language difficulties to help others with projects such as the English Tea Project, and how communication is crucial for social wellbeing.

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You can find out more and support Marziya’s English Tea project over at FYA’s Propeller Fund page.

Remembering the Girmitiyas: Fiji’s Indian Labourers and Vinita’s Family

Vinita Khushal

Vinita Khushal

Girmit Remembrance Day was on Wednesday earlier this week for the first time in Brisbane, recognising the 60,000 Indians who were sent to Fiji as indentured labourers 135 years ago.

About 1.2 million Indians were transported to European colonies around the world as a means of cheap labour. In Fiji, Indian labourers were mainly sent to work for Fiji’s sugar cane industry.

The contracts of these labourers were called “Girmit” – derived from the word “agreement” – and from that word came the name for these labourers – girmitiya. About 25,000 Girmitiyas returned to India under the agreement, but 35,000 stayed in Fiji – though there is speculation that they were prevented from returning home by the government.

Vinita Khushal MC’d the evening and talked to us afterwards about the significance of the remembrance to her family and community. Her ancestors were Girmitiyas who passed on the tragic stories of kidnapping and abuse they suffered.

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The high flyers behind FLY: A Theatre Project



According to Mindframe Media, 1 in 5 Australians will experience mental illness every year. Yet many people still find openly talking about mental illness uncomfortable.

“FLY: A Theatre Project” is Michelle Roberts’ first theatre production currently making its debut at the Anywhere Theatre Festival in Brisbane, starring Griffith University’s Applied Theatre Program students. FLY is a non-linear performance about a depression sufferer, combining movement, costumes and Michelle’s own original music. The performers also invite the audience to talk afterwards in a relaxed environment.

Natal spoke to Michelle and one of the cast members, Pri, about the show.

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FLY is showing until Sunday May 17. Find out how you can see it through the Anywhere Theatre Festival website.

Remember the Battle of Crete: The Cretan Association of Queensland’s Commemorative Dance



Brisbane’s beloved Paniyiri Festival is coming up again, a huge celebration of all things Greek with cooking, dancing and music. Before the festival are a few pre-Paniyiri events. One of them is the 73rd Battle of Crete Commemorative Dance, organised by the Cretan Association of Queensland.

Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands with a unique dance and music culture of its own. During World War II, the island was the scene of the Battle of Crete where Hitler’s German troops attempted to invade. Australian, New Zealand, British and Greek soldiers joined Cretan forces to defend the island. Both sides suffered enormous losses and Crete fell to the Germans – until Germany surrendered at the end of WWII.

Elizabeth Georgiou, secretary of the Cretan Association of Queensland, tells us about preserving Cretan culture and heritage, and its special ties to Australia.

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Come along to the 73rd Battle of Crete Commemorative Dance this Saturday at the Greek Club [Facebook]



















Above: Elizabeth’s photos of QLD Cretan dance group

Venerable Chueh Shan Blesses the Bodhi Tree on Buddha’s Birthday


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According to the 2011 Australian Census there are about 500,000 Buddhists in Australia. The annual Buddha’s Birthday celebrations were held in South Bank in Brisbane over the weekend with performances, food, talks and displays to highlight this significant occasion.

The weekend started with an important ceremony – the blessing of the Bodhi tree.

The original Bodhi tree is in India. It’s said that Buddha sat under this tree and achieved enlightenment. The Bodhi tree at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane was planted in 2006 by artist Lee Mingwei. It’s from the sapling of a Bodhi tree in the Raja Maha Temple in Sri Lanka, which in turn was grown from a sapling from the original Bodhi tree in India.


Venerable Chueh Shan (pictured above in red) from the Chung Tian Temple conducted the Bodhi tree blessing ceremony. She chatted with us about how she came to be a Buddhist Venerable, about the Bodhi tree and Buddhism in Brisbane.

You can visit the temple in 1034 Underwood Road in Priestdale which is between Brisbane and Logan. The temple conducts events and classes – check out more information at

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