UTAS exhibition Practice in-between delves into blending of cultures

SPICY: Artist and UTAS PHD candidate Mehrangiz Modarres Tabatabaei with her work at the Inveresk campus. Picture: Scott Gelston

SPICY: Artist and UTAS PHD candidate Mehrangiz Modarres Tabatabaei with her work at the Inveresk campus. Picture: Scott Gelston

Sugar and salt: two ingredients commonly found in pantries across the world, but less often found intricately placed on the floor of an art gallery. 

University of Tasmania PHD candidate Mehrangiz Modarres Tabatabaei used a series of spices in an art exhibition to showcase the blending of cultures between Afghani refugees and Tasmanians. 

“I’ve used a range of spices and herbs, including salt and sugar to show that life can be sweet and sometimes it can be sour,”  

Modarres Tabatabaei’s PHD focuses on visual art and community engagement with a specific focus on Afghani refugee women.

The exhibition, Practice in-between, was inspired by Modarres Tabatabaei’s work with Afghani refugees who have settled in northern Tasmania. 

A volunteer with the Women’s Friendship Group, Modarres Tabatabaei asked the Afghani women to sew patterns on embroidery circles for a table cloth project.

Those culturally significant symbols and designs became the inspiration for Modarres Tabatabaei’s exhibition. 

“This exhibition invites refugees to think about stepping outside their comfort zone, to look at their challenges as opportunity and to see their new environment positively,” Modarres Tabatabaei said.

Migrating to Tasmania from Iran about three years ago, Modarres Tabatabaei knows first-hand about the difficulties one faces when trying to adjust to a new environment.

Changing or the loss of traditions can be difficult, but she said adapting and diversifying skills and traditions can be extremely positive. 

“Culture is dynamic, society is dynamic, nothing is permanent, so we have to change through learning,” she said.  

“If you look at everything in the new society as a positive way to contribute, it will make your contribution to the society fantastic for the individual and for the people around them.”

Some of the symbols used throughout the exhibition include the cone of Cyprus, patterns from a peacocks tail, and three w’s to represent wind, water and women.

“The works show even though there are lots of changes, there are many cultural features that are parallel and there is opportunity to create open circles of communication,”  Modarres Tabatabaei said. 

Despite spending about 10 consecutive and “very hot” days working on the exhibition, Modarres Tabatabaei said it didn’t feel like a long time because she really enjoyed the experience. 

Practice in-between was on display upstairs at the University of Tasmania’s School of Creative Arts at Inveresk until February 10.