REFUGEE ARTISTS | 'I'm a warrior who's endured and persevered,' says Loudi Ballout

WORKS by two Liverpool artists, Loudi Ballout and Maher Al Khoury, are currently featured in the exhibition ANA/MAN/MA by refugee artists at Auburn until the end of the month.

Along with the concurrent Fragments of Iran exhibition, the diverse artworks highlight themes of resilience, humanity and dignity.

The exhibitions at the Peacock Gallery Auburn, supported by Settlement Services International, feature seven different artists.

The partnership between the gallery and SSI, in its second year, acknowledges the need for artist representation and provides access to exhibition for refugee artists.

For many of the artists involved it is their first curated exhibition in Australia.

ANA/MAN/MA — comprising ME (Arabic), ME(Farsi) and US (Farsi) — is a collective exhibition featuring works by artists of Arabic, Iranian and Ghanaian backgrounds.

Settlement Services International is a community organisation and social business supporting newcomers and other Australians.

It works with all people who have experienced vulnerability, including refugees, asylum-seekers and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

SSI self-funds arts and culture events to ensure refugees and new migrants have equal access to arts and culture.

This week we interview Loudi Ballout.

Next week: Maher Al Khoury.

INTERVIEW

What feelings, or themes, personally drive you as an artist?

Art helps me to forget things. It takes me to another world and helps me to express my feelings of desolation and loneliness and also to reveal moments of joy.

Tell us your own personal story of being a refugee. What were the events of your experience and how did they affect you?

My life was living a war – including with my husband and my health. I recently divorced but I came here with my husband who then left me. I'm a warrior who's endured tough circumstances but persevered.

LOUDI BALLOUT

I came here to Australia for the security that the country offers and to have rights and access to justice. My life was living a war – a real war including with both my husband and my health. I recently divorced but I came here with my husband who then left me. I see myself as a warrior who's had to endure tough circumstances but persevered through the harsh conditions of war back in Syria. I was unable to continue to endure it there.

How has your art changed over the course of your story? Do you still paint the same now as when you started or has it evolved? In what ways?

I'm deeply motivated by the excitement and thrill of painting and expressing myself through art. Settlement Services International has opened the door for me to start painting which is something I'd always wanted to do as I've always loved the arts. My father was an artist. For me, it's like my dreams are becoming a reality and so I love painting things I can relate to. For example, a woman with sad eyes, or nature because it represents the Creator.

Liverpool has many cultures and nationalities represented. How do find living in this region?

I enjoy living in Liverpool and I really appreciate the friendliness and sense of community here. I love socialising and living in Liverpool where I can be close to my new friends and continue to meet so many amazing people.

Art immediately takes away the language barrier and can form an instant communication between the artwork and the viewer. But sometimes there can be other barriers between the artwork and the viewer, such as cultural, political. Are there any barriers you address in your art?

I don’t believe that there are any barriers to art. Art is open to interpretation by the responder. Other than practising my skills, I see no barriers and I believe that art is the universal method of communication.

  • The exhibitions (free entry) run to March 31. Gallery hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am to 4pm. Address: Peacock Gallery, Auburn Botanic Gardens, corner Chiswick and Chisholm roads, Auburn.

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