How a WAAPA collaboration helps migrants bridge the cultural divide
Being caught between two cultures is a daily reality for many young migrants, and it is an experience that Molly Nadunga knows well.
Born in Uganda, Ms. Nadunga immigrated to Western Australia at the age of 17, joining her family in Perth.
She faced a number of challenges upon arrival, some more difficult than others.
“[Food] was the big one for me, ”she said.
“Obviously when I first got here I had a hard time finding something that looked good with my guts… but over time I guess you get used to it.
“We cook cultural dishes at home, which makes us feel more at home. ”
The pressure to integrate
While she was finally able to readjust, Ms. Nadunga had to face a more complex struggle.
It was the pressure to conform to the Australian way of life while remaining true to cultural norms and expectations.
“The struggle is having a picture and a vision of what you want your future to look like and then having that person who loves you, telling you that is not good enough, it isn’t good enough. is not what you are meant to be, ”she said. .
“I see that very often around people in my community, where I see kids with vision and dreams, they want to start a business, they want to do things in the creative industry.
“And then parents get this idea of what the future should look like… it’s either you become a doctor, or an engineer, or a lawyer, or your future is doomed.”
Bridging the cultural divide
It’s one of the issues Perth’s nonprofit Roots TV aims to tackle.
This is where the 26-year-old realized her passion for performing and storytelling.
“It’s my space to express my opinions, my ideas.
“And growing up again, bringing it back to the culture – as kids we never had a voice.
“You have to be a certain age to have that freedom and that respect.
“So Roots TV kind of pulled that out of me – I had a space to express my ideas, I had a space to speak and be heard, most importantly.”
Regain a sense of belonging
The organization, which is based in the culturally diverse suburb of Malaga, was originally designed to deliver programs aimed at helping at-risk young people re-engage in the community through digital media, podcasting and social media. film production.
Roots TV President Aisha Novakovich said her programs have helped dozens of young people come out of their shells.
“Some of our participants have dealt with the justice system and the justice system or have withdrawn from school,” she said.
“Or if they hadn’t, they understood what the traumas and struggles were like coming from families with migrant stories, coming from newly emerging communities, still finding their footing in this country and trying to find a feeling. belonging. “
The organization recently partnered with the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) to develop a pilot program – Rough diamonds – which showcased the talent of Perth’s multicultural community.
Ms Novakovich said the program was the first of its kind, paving the way for other culturally diverse talent.
Through the workshops of the program, many participants were able to draw strengths from their lived experiences and find ways to deal with being caught between two cultures.
“We were able to explore a lot of underlying issues and deal with a lot of those traumas… and through storytelling, they were able to share their love and identity.
The main goal of the organization is to break down barriers to enable culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) young people to access the media and arts sectors, with the aim of increasing diversity in historically under-represented spaces. represented.
“When you grow up in a country where you are not used to seeing people on television who look like you … we try to create a pool of talents, who will infiltrate this system which has often put them to the test. ‘difference .
“We, as a country, get richer when we have a more diverse talent pool, whether you see it in the movies in the media or on the theater stages.”
“I was able to be myself on stage”
Ms. Nadunga was introduced to the WAAPA group showcase, performing a spoken word piece that she wrote herself.
She said the experience allowed her to express herself for the first time on stage.
“I just came out of myself and saw this person that I always wanted to grow but lost a bit along the way, because we try to impress people around us, you are trying to impress your parents, ”she said. mentionned.
“What is important is to have people who see me for who I am [and who] respect my ideas.
“I guess my biggest problem is people looking at me like, ‘She’s a woman, she’s a young girl – hmm not much.’
While the performing arts will likely remain a hobby rather than a career for Molly Nadunga, the program has had a lasting impact.
“Often growing up from my culture, we attach an identity to our culture by thinking that’s who we are… but… you can be anyone,” she said.
“I think the key for me was self-awareness and acceptance … that’s the whole point of these workshops that we organize, to give people that voice and remind them that at the end of the day, you have the final say. “
Roots TV hopes to receive the $ 60,000 in funding it needs to continue its program with WAAPA.