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Creativity without Boundaries: ICE

For those who are creatively minded, art manifests itself into their very existence, and unlike their racial, cultural or class identity, it is a characteristic that is spread consistently; without boundaries, barriers or inherent social connotations. Parramatta’s Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) is an organisation which celebrates exactly that element of creativity and the cultural divides that it has the power to break down. The programs that fall under its mission statement prove that artistic expression can enable innate differences to transgress from areas of conflict into infinitely beautiful bodies of work.

As the home to the largest migrant, refugee and urban Indigenous populations in the country, ICE proudly works across Greater Western Sydney to engage the region’s residents with their lingering creativity. As the ICE’s director Lena Nahlous explains, ICE is all about creating a space and an opportunity for diverse communities to develop skills and tell their stories. After all, there are two million people in Western Australia alone, so the potential talent arising from the area is undoubtedly priceless.

There are so many important creative experiences and stories to be told that come out of diversity. There is a certain level of depth within the people and their interaction within this space,” she says. “The people in this area don’t have as much access to the equipment, contacts, or opportunities in the film, music and design industries, and the idea is that because Western Sydney is predominantly working class, the people here don’t want to enter those industries. But this just leads to a lack of diversity within the media industry, and the stories that end up coming out don’t represent Australia as a whole. We work with people who have these stories to tell, and they will have the greatest impact on the world and the way people think if they tell them. Take the refugees, for example – most of the time they have been persecuted because of their art.”

When reflecting back on the world’s best novelists in recent years, such a statement makes sense, particularly when considering the kind of stimulation that arises out of the need to express hardship. In an effort to get such emotions out in a constructive, artistic way, ICE’s Create Media! program offers free targeted training and mentorship for young people from a refugee background who want to make careers out of their chosen medium within the digital arts arena. Saber Baluch, 21, was recently chosen to take part in the project for his idea to start a production company to teach film to young people from Western Sydney. He is in the process of editing a short film and working on two documentaries before he moves onto his dream – a feature film on race and identity – which he hopes to start in June or July of next year.

Saber grew up in Iran as an Afghan refugee and came to Australia in 2004. After an intensive year of English lessons, Saber was offered a one-year scholarship to NIDA, where he got to pursue his passion for acting. Eventually, though, Saber turned to the other side of the camera.

“I realised that if I continued with acting, I would have had to wait years before Australia created a role for a man of Indian or Middle Eastern appearance, so I started pitching scripts… and I came to the conclusion that the best way to tell a story was behind a camera rather than in front of it. Besides, I like telling people what to do.”

Deciding to take on education as well because “a good scholar is a good director”, when asked what message he wants his career in film to give, he put it simply: “any message that matters.”

Saber Baluch

On May 20, ICE is going to be the beneficiary in an auction that is pretty easy to spend money on and simultaneously feel good about. Ben Frost, Shannon Crees, Beastman and Phibs will be auctioning off the works they created in Cockle Bay Wharf’s Project 5 live art event in December of last year. The full 100% of profits will go towards ICE and its many wonderful projects. An effort by Ambush Gallery and Bay East Auctions, the event is set to take place from 6pm to 8pm in The Star Court in Darling Park.

words: Seema Duggal
photo: Lauren Wampfler-Howie


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