An Afghani artist and refugee is helping newly-arrived migrant women escape histories of family violence and separation through the universal language of arts and crafts.
Hangama Obaidullah's classes, which will run until the end of the month, have doubled in participation since they began, and provide creative skills and community connection for women newly arrived in the ACT by drawing on their own personal experiences of home.
"My greatest goal is to empower and inspire other women," Ms Obaidullah said.
"I want all people to be able to use their talents, speak up and live a normal life. We can change the world, no matter where we start."
Ms Obaidullah said many women from migrant backgrounds had been badly affected by violence and divorce. Through her program, Ms Obaidullah mentors women from Iran, India, Afghanistan, Sudan and Korea, some of them single mothers.
As a single mother who escaped abuse in the past herself, the Tuggeranong Art Centre classes allowed Ms Obaidullah to share her own path and belief in women's empowerment, leadership and community engagement.
When Ms Obaidullah arrived in Australia as a refugee in 2003 she didn't speak a word of English. Six years later, she graduated with a Higher School Certificate and commendation for her body of artwork.
Doing so was fulfilling the dream of her single mother, who passed away when Ms Obaidullah was just 20. She said though she passed away at a young age, her mother raised her to always value the importance of knowledge despite growing up under the Taliban's rule.
Ms Obaidullah was now studying writing at the University of Canberra and had exhibited her artwork, which draws on her Afghan heritage, homeland and history throughout the city, across Australia and internationally.
"Her drive to extend her skills as an artist, and to support and empower other migrants, is so impressive," Woden Arts officer Jacqui Malins said.
"It has been wonderful to help enable her to get this group up and running. The demand for it is striking - more women have joined each week since the program started, only three weeks ago.
"Their enthusiasm to apply their artistic talents and encourage and support one another is contagious. I am really excited to see how the group continues to build and grow."
The classes are modelled off a similar initiative led by Kiran Grewal for the Gungahlin Arts Program.
For women unable to speak English, Ms Obaidullah said the classes were a way to "encourage the women to develop skills they have learnt in their home countries", like painting, embroidery, or storytelling in their native tongue.
"Through these skills and social activities women can introduce Australian communities to the societies where they were born and raised," she said.
She said arts and crafts were the perfect format because of the way "emotions, pains, sufferings and joys" could be expressed in different languages, regardless of background.
The women work with anything from paper, fabric and recycled objects to stitching, painting and drawing.
"Art has no geography," she said. "It has no borders and is the best option in leading us to become united and connect us with different cultures without having [to] worry about language or faith belief.
"We connect women all from different backgrounds together so they can enjoy the time they spend together and they can learn from each other and share their experiences and stories."
The free sessions run on Monday mornings at the Weston Creek Community Centre. Fluency in English isn't required, and all materials are provided.
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