Who am I? by Khalid Farah | Community Stories

Visual Art

“My piece brings to light the barriers that minority groups face brought on by structural inequality. Drawing on my experience of the 9 towers lockdown I wish to illustrate the challenges that ethnic communities face daily. I wish to speak on this theme because it is something my parent’s generation experiences, something my generation experiences, and if I don’t seek to make changes now, so too will my children and their generation.

I am writing because the “pen is mightier than the sword” and I believe that readers will have the opportunity to absorb my message.”


Society, History, Culture, Future, Religion. These are the few things I am gripped with on a day-to-day. Who am I, I am a young male adult who is a Muslim, African, and Australian. If that is not enough, I am also a resident of the 9 towers. I have witnessed the double standards imposed on the local residents. You don’t need to look any further than the comments made by Pauline Hanson saying we are “drug addicts” and “can’t speak English”. Her negative predisposed connotations of people who live in the towers is a widely shared perception.

So why am I writing this? This is not an isolated incident, this not the story of one individual’s courage to fight against personal challenges. I proudly wear all those stripes, but I’m tired. I’m tired of having to switch between these different cultures every day. I’m tired of having to change personalities, change my mannerisms, change the way I talk, change the way I eat. I’m tired of having to ensure I don’t say or do something that will make those around me uncomfortable because they are not familiar with how I am influenced by all these cultures.

This is the story of 3000 residents of the 9 Towers and the gratuitous manner in which we were treated. How does the world expect us to move on, how does the world expect us to act, to water down who we are, how does the world expect us to continue to be beholden to a society that treats us with indifference? We understand the intentions to reduce the spread of the virus within the community, but we shouldn’t have to go through what we went through, in order for that to happen. This was not an isolated incident. What happened during the lockdown is centered around pre-existing issues that we as a community face.

I don’t have the luxury of just representing one culture, one community, one society. From the glances, I get for eating with my hands to stares that pierce the back of my head when I take my shoes off to pray, at my place of work. From the woman who clinches her purse tight as she sits near me on public transport to the never-ending job applications that were rejected, only to be given to someone with fewer qualifications. We shouldn’t have to change our names on our resumes hoping they’ll call us back now. We shouldn’t have to tolerate someone who will only accept a part of who we are, the part they understand. We shouldn’t have to worry about why the police slow down and try to identify us as they drive by.

Who am I? I am someone who came to a country they knew nothing about. Someone who didn’t know how to speak the language, someone who was not familiar with the culture, the way of life. However, through all these challenges I was able to make a life for myself. A graduate from high school, I graduated with a Diploma, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree. I entered the workforce soon after, and I’ve done all kinds of roles from voluntary to internship, to part-time/ casual to full-time employment. Through all my accomplishments, though grateful, I am still hungry for more because I know this is just the beginning.

2020 has been a strange year but through it all, we remain rigid. This year alone has given me the opportunity to start my own production business, Kushitic Productions. Our goal is to run programs/projects that create an open platform where anyone with an idea can come and produce. A place you feel CONNECTED. A place to EXPRESS yourself. A place to give you the OPPORTUNITY to CREATE something SPECIAL. A place where you are surrounded by like-minded individuals aiming to deliver their own CREATIVE art form.

That is all we want, to be given an opportunity to create something special.

Who are we? We are just a group of collective individuals who want to help. We want to break down the barriers that separate us, we want to shake the hand (post-covid-19) of our fellow Australian without being seen as anything more than what we are. We want to tell our own individual stories. In the multicultural world we live in today, global apartheid may have ended, but the foundations that built it still remain. As Martin Luther King said, “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle”. We ask you only be part of the struggle.

Following the announcement of the Shelter 2 commissions program, MAV worked with North Melbourne tower residents Reem Yehdego and Barry Berih, to host several online info sessions.

These sessions created a safe space for residents to connect and talk about the arts, about their experiences of the lockdown, about life in the towers in general.

They generated particular interest amongst young people from the community who led some lively discussions and sharing of stories, experiences and reflections on the hard lockdown.

While most chose to limit their engagement to these online sessions, 3 of the young people involved wanted to share their stories and perspectives with the world.

Who am I? by Khalid Farah is created for Shelter 2.

Shelter 2 is proudly supported by VicHealth, Creative Victoria, City of Melbourne and Australia Council for the Arts.