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How White is Our Art?


Event Status

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.


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. Wantok Musik is a charity that promotes indigenous music... Read more


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. Mozambique’s wealth and high living standard in Southern Africa have been totally... Read more

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. Since 2011, Damian has been curating the Heartlands Refugee Fine Art Pri... Read more

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... Read more

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. Between 2008–2010, Lesley was the managing di... Read more


Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne

100 St Kilda Road MelbourneVictoria 3004

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Acknowledgment of Country

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.