2010 Heartlands Refugee Fine Art Prize Winners

AMES and Multicultural Arts Victoria established the inaugral New Heartlands Refugee Fine Art Prize in 2010 that featured artists and their stories of newly arrived refugees and refugees who had arrived since 1970, the exhibition united artists by the theme of the exhibition, New Heartlands.

In its first year, the prize received more than 50 entries and showcased 26 artists at the Alliance Française Gallery in St Kilda.

A total prize pool of $9,400 was shared by four primary prize-winners and eight special mentions.

The major prize winners were as follows:

First Prize

Taut by Rubaba Haider, Gauche on wasli

Rubaba Haider (Afghanistan), Taut, Fabric circle, 18.5cm

“After experiencing my mother undergo invasive surgery, instead of directly painting the wound and the healing process, I have painted fabric and memoirs of her past to portray her emotions. In Afghanistan I was a student trying to find freedom in expressing my thoughts on paper. Since my early childhood days, I remember playing with colours and paints instead of dolls. My heartland is Australia which has given me a new beginning in life and has given me the freedom of expression. But I sincerely hope that my birth country will one day become a new heartland like Australia is.”

Second Prize 

Tha Gnaw Tha Ku, Mu Naw Poe, paper collage

Mu Naw Poe (Burma), Tha Snaw Tha Ku, Paper collage, 119 x 84cm  

“This work shows I am happy to be free in Australia.In Burma I was a farmer and I made clothes, weaving traditional Karen patterns and colours. I continued my weaving practice in the Thai refugee camp I lived in for 20 years. My heartlands are my new home in Australia and my new home in art making. In Australia I am learning new ways of using my talent for colour and patterns and new art forms.To laugh or cry is to speak the same language, no matter what language we speak. So too, in art we are all speaking Karen; we are all speaking English, we are all speaking a common language.”

Third  Prize

Hopeless' Smile, Nickel Mundabi Ngadwa, Oil on canvas

Nickel Mundabi Ngadwa (Republic of Congo), Hopeless'Smile, Multiple faces, Oil on canvas, 100 x 75cm

“This work captures the smile that is noticed on the faces of refugees who have been relocated to their new country (Australia). It is composed of five single heads representing single men and women from five continents and five stacked heads representing couples. Ten hopeless families from difference cultures and continents have recovered their smiles in their new heartlands; Australia, after a long time of vulnerability. Art for me means the expression of emotion, feelings and passion. The colours and shades that an artwork contain symbolise culture’s harmony.”

Fourth Prize   

Look What I Can Do, Maw Raw Be, Photograph

Maw Raw Be (Burma), Look what I Can Do, Photograph, 50.6 x 30.5cm 

“This work represents my little nephew showing off that he can walk AND push the pram too! I really enjoyed the opportunity to use a skill to capture the excitement of a little human being achieving so much in a new country. New Heartlands is where my heart is pleased with peace, comfort and living in harmony.”

Honourable Mention Awards


New Life in Australia, Nay Ta Gay Wah, Acrylic on canvas

Nay Ta Gay Wah (Burma), New life in Australia, Coat of arms interpretation, Acrylic on canvas, 29 x 42cm

“This work describes the opportunities the Australian Government give to refugees. The sunbeam represents the peace and happiness Australia has given to me and my family. To me, new heartlands means, new life, new community and new beginnings. In my home country I was a frightened child but in Australia I am free and very happy.”

Honourable Mention Awards

New Heartlands and life Sweet Beautiful, Mohammed Zekiria Malistani, Acrylic on canvas

Mohammad Zekiria Malistani (Afghanistan), New Heartlands and Life Sweet and Beautiful Women in Afghanistan, Acrylic on canvas, 29 x 21cm

“This work shows in my heartlands, Afghanistan, Afghan women live with violence and are deprived of education and a good life. In Afghanistan women cover themselves because they are forced to get used to it. They cover themselves out of fear – in the period of the Taliban, if women are not covered, they will be beaten by the Taliban. Art lets me show and express peoples’ feelings, happiness and suffering. My new heartlands mean a peaceful and beautiful land. Life is sweet and beautiful in Australia.”

Honourable Mention Awards

On this side of the fence, Carmenza Jimenez, digital laser print photograph

Carmenza Jimenez (Colombia), On this side of the fence, Digital laser print photograph, 42 x 29.7cm  

“’On this side of the fence’ represents what Australia has to offer me and my family: a new sky, a new home and a new life. The image suggests elements that go between the physical barriers that form boundaries (walls, fences and wires) and elements of part of my new home: backyard, fence and a clothes line. The so cherished dream of crossing the border, by thousands of asylum seekers in the world, has come true for me and my family: now I am ‘on this side of the fence.’ New heartlands means a safe place where people can survive and live protected.”

Honourable Mention Awards

Okara, Minela Krupic, Etching

Minela Krupic(Bosnia), Okara, Etching, 50 x 47cm

“I was a happy child. Once the war broke out in Bosnia, my family and I had to leave our country. We started our new life in Germany and seven years later moved to our new home in Australia. This work considers displacement, memories and new hopes. I feel connected to this piece, exploring past memories and including current inspirations from my surroundings. I use Australian iconography while keeping European symbolism.”

Honourable Mention Awards

Freedom, Hafiz Mirzaee, Acrylic on canvas

Hafiz Mirzaee (Afghanistan), Freedom, nh/uluru, Acrylic on canvas, 32 x 16cm

“This work is about harmony between Australia and Afghanistan. It shows a free and happy lifestyle that has enough room to accept different cultures as part of an Australian identity. It shows what we have in common. I was seven when I left Afghanistan, I came to Australia from Pakistan and then New Zealand. I feel happy in Australia because I feel like my future is here. I feel at home because there are lots of Afghan people, I am accepted by Australians, I like the freedom and safety. I am comfortable in the landscape. Art is a way of communicating with other people how I feel, it is important because English is my second language.”

Honourable Mention Awards

Reality, Siham Mukhtar Mahmoud, Acrylic on sand-glued

Siham Mukhtar Mahmoud (Eritrea), Reality, Acrylic on sand?glued canvas, 40 x 30cm

“This work is about how expectations and reality is balanced for a newly arrived family in Australia. The young man is carrying his child standing fully on two legs and looking at one of the best beaches in Australia. He is wondering about the beauty and endlessness of the ocean that reflects the endless opportunity in Australia. Art means a lot to me. It is something I can’t live without. I use it to explain my feelings and to express the beauty of life. It is something I can stare at the whole time.”

Honourable Mention Awards

Unfinished, Shafiq Monis, Oil on canvas

Shafiq Monis (Afghanistan), Unfinished, Globe/blue dalisque, Oil on canvas, 120 x 180cm

“In my home country I was a carpet repairer and a rug maker. In Australia I am myself and my heartland is the globe, this is all of my land. I want to make art because I want change.”

Honourable Mention Awards

Journey to Australia, Chol Deng Akuok, Acrylic on artboard

Chol Deng Akuok (Sudan), Journey to Australia, Sudanese kangaroo, Acrylic on artboard, 35 x 42cm

“This work describes my journey to Australia. My journey began in Sudan and then Kenya in Africa and on to Australia. In my home country I was less happy than I am today because there were no chances to study anything and nowhere to get something to eat. Australia is my heartland. I have children born here and I am living on a block of Australian land. It is my land now. Art means a lot to me, it is where I started my education and is an area of impression for people’s pleasure.”