Arts

'Lost in a zone', art bus helps refugees heal

0:00

More than 100 artworks from some of Australia's newest residents are going on display at a special exhibition in Adelaide. None of the artists are professional, and for some, it's the first piece they've ever created.

Claire and Miranda Harris have a simple mission: to take art into areas where resources are scarce.

The sisters have converted their large white vehicle into a travelling Art Bus, and they drive it to aged care homes, schools and remote communities – wherever, they say, it is needed.

For the last six months they have taken it to the Mercy House of Welcome, in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, which acts as a service centre for many newly arrived refugees.

An artwork from the Art Bus exhibition, Welcome Home, in Adelaide.
An artwork from the Art Bus exhibition, Welcome Home, in Adelaide. (SBS News)
SBS News

"Communities like this refugee community here in Kilburn wouldn't see any art programs at all,” Ms Harris said.

“It's about access, it's about mobility, it's about building programs that are process-based, not product-based, as well, which is really important."

Iranian-born Kehiryeh Atarpour told SBS News she had thrived during the classes.

Ms Atarpour was taking English lessons when the Art Bus rolled up.

"[When] I came here, [I] don't speak any [English], just 'yes, no'," she said.

“Always crying, because don't understand people, what [they] talk. But coming here, slowly, slowly, little bit understand English."

An artwork from the Art Bus exhibition, Welcome Home, in Adelaide.
Artworks from the Art Bus exhibition, Welcome Home, in Adelaide. (SBS News)
SBS News

But the classes were not just about learning English.

Ms Atarpour says she looks after her sick husband full-time and badly misses her grown-up children, who have resettled in Europe with babies of their own.

As she explains, surrendering her mind to the creative task acted as a kind of therapy, offering some relief from the stresses in her life.

"For me, this class very, very important,” she says.

An artwork from the Art Bus exhibition, Welcome Home, in Adelaide.
An artwork from the Art Bus exhibition, Welcome Home, in Adelaide. (SBS News)
SBS News

“I very like this class, because, for me, this class is like psychology. Because, always, I am reading and spelling English ... always, English, English.

"For me, very, very hard. But this class is very, very different for me. And any days coming here for this class, I'm very happy, very relaxed."

Ms Harris said there was no formal intention to provide therapy when the Art Bus began.

"We steer away from art therapy," she said.

"I think that you can get lost in a zone when you're making art, and I think that may be the form of therapy."

The project has produced more than 100 pieces of art, created almost entirely by refugees aged between 20 and 70.

The artworks are now showing in a public exhibition called Welcome House at the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery in Adelaide until November 30.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch