Art from the Margins provides outlet for refugee community

Metendo “Kiny” Ruharara is an 18-year-old refugee from the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is part of the Art from the Margins program. Since its inception in 2008, Art from the Margins has provided support and promotion for the creative work of disadvantaged and disenfranchised artists.

Many artists who connect with the program face daily challenges – such as mental health problems, financial difficulties or homelessness – and find that working with their art and engaging with other artists is immensely helpful.

Kiny arrived in Australia from Africa in 2009 with his brothers, cousins and nephews. Since then he has been trying to reach out to the African community in Australia through his art.

“There were many problems in my home country since it is a time of war and insecurity. My family and I weren’t sure if we were going to be safe so some of us decided to leave,” says Kiny.

“I left home and we were just passing through country after country. Mostly the people we met would send us to refugee camps, although sometimes we were able to stay among the people.

“[In the refugee camps] it’s just a matter of surviving. How you live is a response to your environment.”

Kiny has been drawing since he was a child and started painting when he arrived in Australia. Much of Kiny’s family still resides in Africa and he plans to return to the DRC in the future.

“When I am painting – it doesn’t feel like a ‘job’, it’s something I like, something I love to do. When I’m working on my art I am doing it with all my heart,” he says. “I try to paint regularly and like to decide on what story to tell before beginning a piece.”

Kiny says his cultural background has inspired him as an artist.

“Most of what I paint is about stories of things which I’ve seen myself. I like to paint African culture as that’s what I know best; I paint African people, landscapes and animals.

“It can be very difficult [leaving home]. When people come here from Africa they change culturally; sometimes families break down.”

Kiny says he tries to preserve some of his culture within his paintings. “I hope to have an opportunity to inspire others in similar situations with my work. I just try to show my perspective on cultural change and hope that someone will take something away from that.”

Kiny finished high school at Loganlea and now studies civil engineering at TAFE, though art is where his true passion lies.

His early work formed part of Art from the Margins refugee exhibition “Through Their Eyes” – aiming to provide a voice for people from a refugee background to communicate some sense of their stories and experiences.

Art from the Margins Coordinator Anthony Anderton says “[exhibitions like these] can assist with raising the profile of talented artists and help to increase public awareness about the particular situations and challenges they face.”

Two of Kiny’s paintings will also feature in this year’s Art from the Margins exhibitions at Brisbane Festival. Now in its seventh year as part of the iconic Brisbane event, Art from the Margins will exhibit at five venues across Brisbane. Exhibitions will run 10.00am – 4.00pm daily. Admission is free and all are welcome.

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