A Question of Identity

View all events in this series

at Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne

How White is Our Art?

Some believe that multiculturalism is ‘a racism of anti-racists’ that ‘chains people to their roots’, as controversial French writer Pascal Bruckner has said.

But curator Damian Smith believes that histories and traditions don’t need to be restrictive: artists can draw on these rich resources as part of the tapestry of creative expression.

‘In the hands of artists, culture can be a springboard to knowledge and transformation,’ he says.

How is Melbourne’s chorus of cultures reflected in the art we produce and promote? Does the rich diversity of our markets and restaurant strips translate to our galleries and stages – or to the boardrooms of our major organisations, where decisions are made? And does it matter?

Damian will conduct a many-voiced discussion on cultural diversity and the arts in Australia.

He’ll talk to Lesley Alway, CEO of Asialink, Bindi Cole, an artist and photographer of Wathaurung descent, African singer/songwriter Kobya and Michael Agar, whose works promotes cultural exchange between Australian and our neighbours in Oceania.

Co-presented by the Melbourne Festival and the Wheeler Centre.


Portrait of Michael Agar

Michael Agar

Michael Agar is an arts producer who has worked across all artforms, including film, television, theatre, music, writing, visual arts and even puppetry over the last 30 odd years. He has been on the board of Wantok Musik Foundation since 2006.

Portrait of Kobya


Kobya is a versatile multi-instrumentalist, an impassioned vocalist, a poet and a gifted performer. He is from Mozambique, a country that has been torn by civil war for 17 years, after years of Portuguese occupation.

Portrait of Damian Smith

Damian Smith

Damian Smith is a curator and art critic with more than 20 years experience in the field of contemporary art. He is the director of Words For Art, an international consultancy specialising in contemporary culture and discourse.

Portrait of Bindi Cole

Bindi Cole

Award-winning artist Bindi Cole was born in 1975 in Melbourne, Australia. She studied at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE and the University of Ballarat. Bindi is a resilient and ingenious Melbourne-born photographer, curator and new media artist with Wadawurrung heritage who speaks compellingly about taboo topics through her photographs, videos and installations.

Portrait of Lesley Alway

Lesley Alway

Lesley Alway is an arts manager with experience in cultural organisations and special expertise in the visual arts (in the government, non-profit and private sectors). Lesley is currently director of Asialink Arts, based at the University of Melbourne.

A Question of Identity

What does it mean to be Australian today? Is being Australian important to the art we produce, or promote?

As Melbourne Festival brings the best of international art to Melbourne, this series of talks explores the nature of the Australia we present to the world. Are our iconic cultural notions and images relevant to the Australia we live in, and why are they buried deep in the bush, while most of us live clinging to the coastal fringe?

Over three nights we present panel discussions hosted by some of Melbourne finest cultural commentators, to explore our place in the world, investigate how Australian identity is shifting and discuss what it all means for the art we create. Join the conversation.


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