Feature: Award-winning exhibition in Sydney promotes connection, understanding during pandemic

2021-01-19 06:35:25 GMT2021-01-19 14:35:25(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

SYDNEY, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- There is an old saying that goes "Never judge someone until you've walked a mile in his shoes." Now Sydneysiders have the chance to literally try on other people's shoes and listen to their stories.

As part of the Sydney Festival 2021, the Australian National Maritime Museum is partnering with the Empathy Museum in Britain to bring the highly acclaimed exhibition "A Mile in My Shoes" to the harbor city.

"It's been to 35 venues around the world. And now it's Sydney's turn," curator of the Australian National Maritime Museum Kim Tao told Xinhua.

"So what you do is you come down to the museum, tell us your shoe size, and actually take a walk for a mile in someone else's shoes while you listen to their migration story."

Originally created by artist Clare Patey, the exhibition in Sydney features 35 new stories of migrants to Australia.

Among the storytellers are a Catholic refugee who fled Vietnam on a seven-meter-long fishing boat crowded with 99 passengers; an Estonian lady who was born in Sweden and lived in Australia, returning to her motherland to trace her parents' experience after they died; and a man who grew up in the refugee camp dreaming of becoming a famous soccer player.

"Empathy is often described as being able to walk in somebody else's shoes... Once you put on those shoes, you immerse yourself and you hear that person's voice telling you their stories. I think it's a very powerful, very intimate experience," Tao said.

As a country with more than 1.2 million people with Chinese ancestry, there are also many engaging stories about the Chinese migrants.

"Chinese migrants have been one of the major migrant groups to Australia throughout history, so what I've tried to do with the Chinese stories is to show that depth and breadth throughout the history," Tao said.

Among the stories are a Chinese artist talking about the challenges of being adopted and raised in a white family in New Zealand; a volunteer firefighter in Victoria who was always intrigued by his olive skin and found that his great grandfather came from China in the 1850s for the gold rush through family history research; and a lady who arrived in 1964 and was subjected to the White Australia policy and eventually became an advocate for the Chinese Australians.

As an art event being held under the COVID-19 pandemic, Tao also hoped this exhibition could help people have more understanding of others and find the human connection and the shared humanity against racism, isolation and discrimination.

"If we just took the time to listen and understand others, we'll realize that we are connected by many more common human values than when we are actually not," Tao said.

"I think that's been a great lesson of this project throughout the COVID pandemic and being able to understand what I think helps us face a lot of challenges." Enditem