OUR OWN Stories

Older women telling their stories through art
Amani Haydar teaching at workshop

“Our OWN Stories” was set up as a ten-week workshop program in 2022 at Bankstown Arts Centre with 15 older women from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

These women were offered the opportunity to express themselves and tell their stories through art.

The workshops were led by Archibald finalist, lawyer, writer, domestic and family violence survivor and local artist, Amani Haydar.

Our OWN Stories was an immersive series of art workshops for older refugee and migrant women, led by Archibald finalist Amani Haydar. Press or click the play icon to watch the video!

Almost all the women didn’t know how to paint or draw. As part of the curriculum for the project, they enjoyed a guided tour of the Art Gallery of New South Wales for inspiration. For most, it was the first time they stepped foot into the Gallery.

Amani was very encouraging and she is still encouraging me.


Gallery Visit - a group of women standing before a large painting
Photos and treasures in a glass cabinet

Early in the workshop, the women were asked to bring a treasure from their country of origin that had a special meaning to them.

The women were asked to explain their connection to the piece and the stories and feelings which it evoked for them. They used these as a catalyst for their stories and the expression of their story through art and onto the canvas.

I don’t think I can make a draw like this. I was very scared. but when I start, it was okay.


These coins were given to me by my grandmother. She kept them for a rainy day but passed them on to help me. The year is 1928 - when Cyprus was occupied by the British, and my grandmother faced poverty and violence (Mary)
Embroidery completed 50 years ago for my high school project! (Mary)
My grandmother's bag. She made it in 1930. (Najah)
A present (nightie) from my mother 60 years ago. Every time I see it reminds me of her. (Jeanette)
This wine glass is from my homeland of Cyprus. Every year there is a 2 week wine festival in Limassol to celebrate their world famous wine. The inscription says 'Drink Wine to Live'. It reminds me of the happy days before the Turkish invasion that forced me to migrate. (Agnes)
A photo of my uncle and grandmother.  A coin from 1928 given to me by my grandmother 60 years ago to help me as she said, since she had nothing else to give me.  (Mary)
My treasures were brought with me when I came to Australia as a teenager. They represent the hard life of Greeks in the 50s. The first one is milking the sheep for cheese and the other is weaving the sheeps wool to make socks and singlets for soldiers during the war. (Niki)
My treasures were brought with me when I came to Australia as a teenager. They represent the hard life of Greeks in the 50s. The first one is milking the sheep for cheese and the other is weaving the sheeps wool to make socks and singlets for soldiers during the war. (Niki)

I was a bit overwhelmed and shocked at how many of them had gone though a lot of hardship before they came to Australia…when you see them smiling and laughing, you would never think of all the hardships they’ve gone through.


Under Amani’s guidance the women created their own artworks that reflected their stories and their culture. 

Photos and treasures in a glass cabinet

As they gained confidence in themselves, in the techniques, they then painted a major artwork together. It was a revelation to the women.

They found out many things about themselves and each other as they worked on the final group triptych.

Triptych painting

They give you confidence. I’ve never had this confidence before.


I learned something new. The painting is really make you relax. Was a very nice thing to Do when you ended up with stress. You forgot everything about it.


The art that we produced tells our stories but also reflects the joy & healing this program has given us. 


This culmination of the ten-week workshop was the launch of “Our Own Stories” and Amani Haydar’s new exhibition “Devotion” at Bankstown Arts Centre on March 11th 2023.

One hundred people gathered to share lunch, to hear from the women in the project and to see the final artworks. Amani’s new exhibition “Devotion” speaks to spiritual devotion as well as devotion to art, literature, creativity, justice, family and community.

The Older Women’s Network’s Greek group entertained the crowd with some traditional Greek dancing in full costume. There was also a performance by a Palestinian group featuring both younger and older women. They acted out a scene from a pre-wedding celebration.

Photos and treasures in a glass cabinet

Sometimes when you have lacked that sense of community, you tend to give everything to everybody and you forget about you. But when you start doing this workshop, it’s all about you and everybody. That has been the best gift you can get.


More Information

This project was proudly supported by the NSW Government through funding granted by the Minister for Seniors and Multiculturalism, Mark Coure.

Exhibition Dates: 11 March-22 April
Venue: Bankstown Arts Centre

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