Samira Ibrahim; African Film Festival of Australia

March 20, 2012 by

The first African Film Festival Australia will be taking place in Sydney (5-8 April) and Melbourne (11-15 April)

Director of the Festival, Samira Ibrahim, took time out from her busy schedule preparing for the Festival to share her perspective on multicultural life in Australia with MyLifeInOz. We hope you will not only read her story, but get to the venues and show your support for the African Film Festival!

1. How does multiculturalism in Australia work in reality for you?

Multiculturalism in Australia is a complex beast in Australia and yet it is often simplified into discussions on variety of food or the number of people from different backgrounds that live here. However, merely having access to something as basic as different food isn’t a sign of living in a multicultural nation. For a nation to be really considered multicultural, people from various backgrounds, ethnicities and religions should be able to fully access all opportunities available to them. Currently, our media, television and film are largely told from an Anglo perspective by those from an Anglo background. So while Australia may look multicultural on the street, in popular Australian culture you would be hard pressed to locate that culture. This type of multiculturalism in reality doesn’t work as it is suggests to those from non-Anglo backgrounds that their culture isn’t appreciated or not worthy of being included in the wider Australian popular culture.

2. How do you live ‘your’ culture in Australia?

As a Somali born, Australian I would say I live my culture every day through what I wear, to what I speak, what I eat, the kinds of activities I participate in and how I see the world as an African, I am also always interested in participating in African cultural and social events. It is often assumed that all Africans are the same and the truth is that there is such differences and cultural nuances that exist across the continent, it is always fascinating for me to meet other Africans and find out more about their culture.

3. Does the community you live in accept you and your cultural practices?

Living in Western Sydney and particularly in an electorate where 1 in 2 Australians comes from a non-English speaking backgrounds, I have no problems with people accepting my culture.

4. How do you integrate into Australian culture?

I don’t see myself as integrating into any culture. I take and accept from each culture what works for me.

5. What is Australian culture in your experience?

Australian culture is a complex culture that has continuously been redefined throughout history. From a settler culture, to a White Australian culture, to an open approach to multiculturalism which in fact was more cultural assimilation than unbridled multiculturalism. I think Australian culture has themes that tie it together such as a love of sports, laid back attitude, humour and appreciation for variety of cultures. But I don’t believe you could pinpoint a distinct Australian culture.

6. What are the challenges of living with two cultures? Or more!!

I don’t find any challenges in living with two cultures. I live a life that is a blended culture that is African, Somali, Australian and Arabic. Each culture adds to my experiences and my perspectives on living in Australia and my ability to connect with people from various backgrounds.

7. Are you seen as an individual or as a member of an ethnic community?

I would like to believe that I am seen as an individual though I have no idea how others perceive me. The one thing I would hate to be is a spokesperson or token person for a particular ethnic community whereby my own individually is lost.

8. What are your aspirations and how are they being met?

My vision for myself is to contribute to a cultural diverse Australia that isn’t clichéd, that isn’t only appreciated during certain weeks or days but is a part of our cultural scene all year round. My passion is for an Australian culture that is diverse in every aspect and in every avenue whereby we decode stereotypical notions of what it means to be Australians.


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