New exhibition asks: ‘Do you belong?’

19 April, 2011

Avi Singh
Avi Singh, a young Sikh in the exhibition.
Image: Scottie Cameron
Source: Museum Victoria

A new exhibition at the Immigration Museum takes a mirror to our culturally diverse society and asks what it means to belong – or not – in Australia today.

Unlike any other exhibition in an Australian museum, Identity: Yours, Mine, Ours provides fresh and challenging insights into personal identity – who we are and how we perceive each other. Through objects, interactive multimedia displays and personal stories from Australians of widely diverse backgrounds, the exhibition asks: what does it take to feel like you belong in Australia?

A recent survey by the University of Western Sydney has found that 41% of Australians feel that Australia is weakened by people of different ethnic origins sticking to their old ways, while 12% of Australians are prejudiced against other cultures. Overall, the survey found that 84% of Australians believe there is racial prejudice in this country.

How we perceive ourselves, and the ways in which we feel connected to one another, are critical in creating a cohesive society. Focusing on the things that make up our sense of who we are – ethnicity, ancestry, language, spirituality and citizenship – Identity looks at how we view people around us and what we make of those all-important first impressions.

Prominent Australians such as Collingwood footballer Harry O’Brien, chef and restaurateur Jacques Reymond and food personality and MasterChef finalist Poh Ling Yeow feature in the exhibition, reflecting on the unique experiences, cultural heritage, and beliefs that make them who they are.

“Identity is everybody’s story”, says Moya McFadzean, Lead Curator. “No matter where we come from, or what our life is like, defining our identity is vital to understanding ourselves and how we fit into the world around us.”

“This exhibition explores the diverse identities that make up today’s Australia, and challenges visitors to examine their own assumptions and confront their everyday prejudices about cultural diversity”.

One of the aims of Identity is to challenge visitors to be self-aware. As they enter the exhibition, a new video installation by world-renowned artist Lynette Wallworth will confront visitors with images of people who will make them feel welcome – or let them experience what it’s like to feel very unwelcome.

In another key exhibit, visitors will enter an immersive multimedia presentation in which they will find themselves on a tram and witness to an act of racial intolerance. By watching the episode through the eyes of the victim, the perpetrator and bystanders, visitors will be encouraged to reflect on how they might react if they found themselves in a similar situation.

Central to the exhibition are more than 30 personal stories told by individuals from diverse communities across Victoria, ranging from young female soccer players and Congolese-Australian dancers to a Vietnamese-Australian theatre performer and a Wathaurong photographer. In different ways – through creativity, connecting with cultural heritage, joining community groups or gaining citizenship – each story tells how individuals found their own sense of identity and belonging.

Visitors will leave Identity feeling inspired to stand up for diversity and against prejudice in all its forms, taking with them an understanding of the many and varied identities that make up our nation today.

Identity: Yours, Mine, Ours
Immigration Museum, 400 Flinders Street Melbourne
From 11 May 2011
Adults $8, children and concessions FREE

The Immigration Museum acknowledges the support of VicHealth and Perpetual in the development of this exhibition.