EPISODE 64 :: Sharifah Emalia Al-Gadrie

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In episode 64 of the Close Knit podcast, I speak to Sharifah Emalia Al-Gadrie. Sharifah Emalia Al-Gadrie is a multidisciplinary artist & community development worker based in nipaluna/Hobart, lutruwita/Tasmania. Her creative practice is responsive and explores belonging and cultural heritage in contemporary Australia, drawing on intersectional feminist theory and lived experience as an Asian-Australian woman. Emalia's work is both research and process driven and is based in mediums including painting, textiles, installation and photography. She currently works for Tasmanian not-for-profit organisation, A Fairer World, managing the Hobart Human Library and Women’s Business projects.

I have so deeply admired Emalia since I met her in 2017 when I lived in Hobart. She has been persistently living her values, doing incredible work in her community, and maintaining a thoughtful and critical artistic practice. I was particularly excited to catch up with her and hear about her life these past few years, she has been absolutely prolific in her artistic practice.

We share stories about life over the last year and compare the ways our community spaces have been altered as a result of pandemic life. She tells me about the shows she’s been part of and in particular, we discuss a project that is especially near to her heart, Women’s Business. Women’s Business is a show that explores the culture, religion, and personal journies of Tasmanian women from migrant and refugee backgrounds through the fashion of their families.

Much of Emalia’s textile work is soft and inviting on the surface, but deals with heavy subject matter - we discuss the ways in which Emalia’s use of textiles is both a response to her personal affection for textiles and their tactility and an act of political meaning. Some of her work is deeply bodily and contains references to or literal body hair, an exploration of her experience growing up on the coast of Australia as an Asian-Australian woman, being bullied for her body hair.

We wrap up by discussing Emalia’s piece Sticks and Stones (pictured above) which took a critical lens to the Islamaphobia that is rampant in Australian media. This piece exemplifies Emalia’s purpose with her art practice, drawing the viewer in with this soft pastel palette, and asking them to consider something they might shy away from. She hopes to engage her audience in these difficult conversations, even if just for a moment, or even just to have them acknowledge that the thing is real and happening.

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