The approximately seventy families from Afghanistan based in the Bella Vista Quest Hotel in Sydney are all in the process of being allocated housing across the Western Sydney Suburbs. These families have largely remained in the hotel and its immediate vicinity since their arrival to Australia and do not have easy access to public transport. On 7th December 2021 The Massoud Foundation Australia organised a trip to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the surrounding area so they could explore Sydney. The group was made up of women and children from across Afghanistan.
The Art Gallery of NSW kindly organised for us to have a tour with one of their guides, Victoria, who showed us a range of works in the collection while our friend Belqis Youssofzay translated the tour into Farsi/Dari. We started in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art galleries where we saw bark paintings and the Beizam shark dance headdress by Australian artist Ken Thaiday, which is made of wood and feathers and used in ceremonial dance performances. The group made comparisons between carpet weaving in Afghanistan and some of the large-scale paintings by Aboriginal artists. We wandered through the galleries looking at works by Australian artist Sydney Nolan and at the impressive Pukumani grave posts. The gallery very kindly gave us lunch and also gifted the group beautiful gifts of craft materials. We were also able to take some to distribute amongst the rest of the Afghan families at the Bella Vista hotel.
After lunch at the gallery, we ambled through the Botanic Gardens, looking at the huge range of plants and trees from all over the world. Our walk also took us down the harbour. The sun was hot, we applied sun-screen, talked about sharks, and watched the sailing boats crossing the water. None of the group had visited this area of Sydney before. Finally, we walked to the Opera House which was a great opportunity for the group to take photos of this famous building.
At the Massoud Foundation Australia we are keen to reduce the sense of isolation that many refugees feel upon arrival to Australia and give these groups opportunities to explore their new city. Thank you to Blacktown City Council for the support and Art Gallery of New South Wales for making this day a success.