“Migrant Mothers of Australia” is a photographic project involving women over 80 from diverse backgrounds. The aim of this project is to honour their many sacrifices and commitments in their journey to call Australia home.
Often it’s our unconscious mind that dictates our moves and intentions. What dragged me into Julia’s home last February, I did not know at the time. A shy, fragile woman. A smile mixed with sadness, a recluse who keeps her eyes away from you. She doesn’t know what to make of you and wonders why you are there. As a photographer, I felt I was in her most private moments and felt awkwardly rushed to get out of it in order not to scare, not to hurt. At the same time she was so welcoming to my camera. When I saw the window light on her face, that was the moment. She was there, existing right within that tiny space.
Upon looking at her photograph, there was an ever growing fascination grew towards this generation. I looked at this picture, I don’t know how many times. I tried to imagine her first day here, getting off the ship. Then the years following that, on the other side of the world without a single word of exchange with back home. I couldn’t imagine. This is where it all came together for me. While sympathizing with her, I was reflecting on my own journey, my own emotions. I travelled the world before settling in Australia, yet it is a heartfelt process to make a place “home”. This has become even more prominent in my life after having my children. Not only was I in the process of making Australia home for myself, but now I had my own children with whom I wanted to grow, feeling proud as Australians and carrying my own cultural heritage with them.
Departing from a sense of belonging in a new place, I wanted to build this photographic study of a long forgotten generation. Their children have been born here, studied here and help build our very own multicultural society and the mothers’ role in this is undeniably prominent.
I’ve had to adopt many ways to locate and approach these women for a photo shoot. I sent out emails to organisations, friends and I used social media to reach out. I have discovered a massive appreciation for the idea and it wasn’t too long to find my treasures. With some, it was me exploring the emotions of ‘belonging’ and ‘identity’ and with others it was them screaming out how much they owned up to this land but all together there were stories to be heard.
When I walked into Popi’s house, I felt like I was dealing with a super star. She loved my attention, I loved paying attention to her. She fell in love with a man and they wanted to build their lives on another land. What better place than Australia?
I’ve found a friend in Alena Karazija. One can write a book on her story and she did indeed write one herself to pass the family history onto the next generation. I cannot possibly fit this woman into a paragraph but bigger than life itself would probably get close to it.
Rosa was pregnant on the way to Australia. She told me about her combined seasickness with morning sickness, wasn’t the best time of her life. Showed me the dresses she made herself fifty years ago while giggling over not fitting into them anymore.
Nhung Lee and Amy Wong are still very active minds, getting involved in social activities and volunteering within their own communities.Jeong Choon Lee originally from North Korea, fled to South after the war and followed her daughter to Australia. She lost contact with her family and during the shoot she’s asking me if I can keep her picture on the internet in case the long lost family members could recognise her. Alice is one of the first Japanese marrying an Australian. Her family dishonoured her for the move and took eighteen years to rebuild the relationship.Wira was a very successful athlete, a uni graduate. Her move to Australia was as a result of the World War II. Adele and Mevlude followed some family members as a reunion and never looked back. Alyashoa, fled Iraq and sought refuge in Jordan. After a four long years of wait, her visa was confirmed upon her son’s diagnosis with cancer here in Australia.
I photographed Teresa, Yolanda, Lila and Neysi through a community organisation. All from various South American countries, they’ve adopted Australia as home for many years and the only thing they miss is the speaking of the Spanish language.
I had a one day exhibition with the Australian Multicultural Community Services as part of the Volunteer Day conference last August. The praise and attention I got for these photographs were heart warming. Alena, Nhung Lee and Jeong Choon Lee attended the exhibition in person and it was a very proud moment for me to see them browsing their own photographs on the wall. As a multicultural community we all feel and relate to these women in one way or another. It’s my utmost intention to share these photographs with as many people as I can. As an ongoing project, I’m still on the lookout to locate more of them out there. I’ll be grateful for further participants if you know anyone you think that would be interested in taking part.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Sevim was born in the east of Turkey in 1973. From very early on at school, she was fascinated by language studies and different cultures. She grew up thinking she was going to be a writer or a poet. One of her very first poems was titled “Faraway Land”. At the time she was not aware that she’d be spending most of her life away from home. Before migrating to Australia in 2002, Sevim spent four years in Cyprus, three years in London and short period of residency in North Africa and in the States.
Her Australian born, Turkish husband has been the biggest influence on her photographic career. Sevim says ‘It’s with Bilgin that I’ve started watching movies in a whole new perspective and paid attention to the cinematography and appreciated the power of imagery. The couple has two children; their daughter Ada, four and Kaan their 16 month old son.
Sevim can be contacted via her website and on her mobile.
M. 0400 066 755