The University of New South Wales has introduced a novel social project that brings together the artists, designers, technical innovators, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health experts to create a cultural festival on a massive scale – one that addresses mental health as a collective, social responsibility. 

The initiative “The Big Anxiety- We Are All Affected” as the name suggests, prioritises issues targeting to address anxiety within and around Australian Muslim communities by invoking difficult conversations, exerting art’s capacity to build connections through empathy and collaboratively channelling the societal behaviour to stop the continuation of stress and strains of everyday life.

The project is being showcased in the form of an exhibition from 21 September to 11 November 2017 open from 10am to 4pm at the Auburn Peacock Gallery as well as at the Fairfield Gallery and Museum.

Amidst photography, video installation, sculpture, ceramics and interactive media, a series of workshops are being staged.

The quality of a society is largely determined by how much importance the society places on the arts. Keeping in mind the educationally critical, socially essential & aesthetically pleasurable benefits art brings to any society, we all need to work together to contribute to our values reflected through diverse expressions of arts & culture.

Given below are two thoughtful reflections of two of the Australian Muslim artists featured at the exhibition.

“We Are All Affected was the principle commission for the Big Anxiety Festival and features some of Australia’s most well-known and respected Muslim artists, most of whom have recently come together to form a collective of contemporary artists, writers and curators.

As an Australian Muslim curator, working alongside internationally acclaimed Sydney based artist, Khaled Sabsabi, to reconnect the works of these brilliant artists who mostly exhibit in major galleries and museums both here and internationally is an essential part of my practice.

This exhibition was really about reconnecting with our local communities through contemporary art. It is also about being able to share this narrative and our stories through the arts, and in particular to begin to address the issues around Islamophobia from a different angle and to bring that conversation, on our terms, to a very different and unexpected audience.”  – Nur Shkembi

“We Are All Affected was part of The Big Anxiety project. The concept primarily revolves around identifying and tackling anxiety among the Muslim community being alienated from the rest of the society.

This exhibition serves as a unique communion of voice and experiences related to social isolation shared though the contemporary practice of the Australian Muslim artists for the Muslim audience.

We Are All Affected is a call to action, one that fosters connection, relevance and belonging in our society. I encourage others to reach out to such events to create rich engagements critical to our collective mental health.” – Khaled Sabsabi

We can do better by recognising how profoundly our cultural life contributes to the health of communities not only across our nation but around the world.