Filipino-Iranian Aida Azan hungered to connect with her Filipino heritage. She devoured the visual arts to have a better understanding of it.
Born of Filipino and Iranian parents who moved to Australia as migrants, she always felt that her Filipino heritage was out of reach.
“I wanted to explore more about my background and painting for me was the best way to connect to my background because I wasn’t really brought up in a Filipino community I thought painting was the best way to research my heritage.”
Creativity takes courage
With a deep yearning to understand where she came from, Ms Azin felt that she needed to do something to squelch her curiosity.
In 2015, she made a decision to go on a solo trip to the Philippines for the first time.
Though she connected with the art she found in the Philippines, she felt lost in an unfamiliar country.
“I went to the Philippines for the first time in 2015 on a holiday by myself and when I went there, I really didn’t know what to expect.”
While it was daunting for Ms Azin to step out of her comfort zone and travel to a country she has never been to before, she says the trip led her to artists who introduced her to the Filipino culture.
"I found that I learnt more about the Philippines through hanging out with other artists and it wasn't until I met the people who are now my friends that I got to understand things
The making of a community arts event
Gratitude led Ms Azin to create a first-of-its-kind community arts event with the help of her Filipino friends whom she flew to Australia.
"It just started off by me saying I’d love to return the favour for the way they have shown hospitality to me every time I am in the Philippines."
The desire to return the favour to friends gave birth to a community arts project called 'Saluhan' (to partake).
Saluhan is a collaborative effort between Filipino and Australian artists aimed at showcasing the Filipino people's love for party, food, music and art.
Ms Azin says that although it was challenging to bring artists from the Philippines to Australia, the support and help of family and friends helped the project come to fruition.
"The more I started talking about it to friends, the more it escalated. It had this snowball effect of more and more people wanting to help. I think that’s the beauty of it. It connects with the name [of the project] so well. It’s like we are [all] coming together."
She feels that there are a lot of opportunities for the event to grow in the coming years.
"It’s not just isolated to visual arts or just to us showcasing a very cliché notion of a Philippine fiesta. It’s a little bit more authentic."
Ms Azin is collaborating with Filipino and Australian artists to hold three separate events in Adelaide, Melbourne and the Philippines.
Pride in colour
Ms Azin finished Fine Arts with honours at the University of South Australia in 2017.
She continues to engage with her Filipino-Iranian heritage through her practice and, she actively promotes the importance of pride in self-representation for people of colour.
She has also spoken on several panel discussions addressing race, diasporic experience and the role of women of colour in feminism.
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