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More than a work of art


The painting of a colourful mural at the Vinnies House of Welcome is helping to brighten the lives of migrants and refugees struggling with boredom, uncertainty and anxiety.

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For Afghani Agha Mosawi, who fled Pakistan in 2013 after his brother was killed by the Taliban, it is welcome relief from the constant worry about his family who are scattered in different countries. Agha’s wife is not eligible to join him in Australia while he remains on a temporary protection visa.

The 70 year old once travelled around Europe selling reproductions of famous paintings and speaks eight languages.

He has been improving his English at Vinnies House of Welcome at Kilburn for the past three years and jumped at the opportunity to learn how to paint.

“It feels good,” he said.

“But when I go home I think all the time about my family, I can’t sleep…when I call my wife she asks what time will I be home, she doesn’t understand.”

Agha is one of between 10 and 15 Vinnies ‘companions’ participating in the art program run by The Art Bus.

Founded by sisters Claire and Miranda Harris in 2013, The Art Bus has received funding from Wellness SA, part of SA Health, to run a program for people who have experienced trauma and social isolation.

Through the ‘Open Your World’ grant, the artists are working with the Vinnies House of Welcome and the Kilburn Community Centre to bring people together to learn new skills and develop social connections.

Claire said the group started the weekly classes doing self-portraits, making collages and exploring colour.

“It was all quite new for them,” she said.

“We were planning to just make art together but the building was in desperate need of painting and Mary Ireland (centre coordinator) suggested painting a mural on the front wall.”

Claire and Miranda went to a floral wholesaler and came back with vases of flowers for the group to draw and paint.

Claire said the benefit of the art program for the migrants and refugees was that “it takes them somewhere else”.

“They have to concentrate on the creative process.”

Painting the mural had the added advantage, Miranda said, of giving them a sense of pride in something that has a “public life” and which people can enjoy.

“It’s about the process but in this case there is also an outcome,” she said.

“The artists take lots of photos and send to their families; it gives them a sense of independence.”

The Vinnies Migrant and Refugee Service was previously located at Hindmarsh but moved to Kilburn last year after the Sisters of Mercy closed the Mercy House of Welcome and embarked on a new Mercy Works project at Port Augusta.

The relocated centre was blessed by Archbishop Patrick O’Regan on March 4.


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