Correction: parts of this article have been changed to reflect the nature of the Mapping Frictions project, which, at time of print (Issue 5, Anomaly), were changes that could not be made. The title has been amended from original headline as it is not exactly a “re-telling” – the point is that these stories have not been told. Kavita Bedford is the Creative Producer of the Mapping Frictions project and not of Bankstown Youth Development Service. Mapping Frictions launched in March of this year and not in September, late last year.

The many faces of Western Sydney are often forgotten by the mainstream media, labelling suburbs like Bankstown as violent and nothing more. EUNICE ANDRADA spoke to Kavita Bedford – Creative Producer of a new multimedia storytelling website at Bankstown Youth Development Service – about the Mapping Frictions project, and breaking down those stereotypes.

 

Mapping Frictions, a project by the Bankstown Youth Development Service (BYDS), is a multimedia approach to storytelling in the digital age – using this to explore some the issues to do with the identity of Bankstown. Launched in March this year, the initiative aims to break down the social barriers of prejudice and politics in Bankstown. Challenging stereotypes of violence, racism, and religious extremism, Mapping Frictions is about promoting a more complex understanding of life in Western Sydney.

Khalil Gibran Statue, Bankstown. Photo credit: George Voulgaropoulos c/o Mapping Frictions

Khalil Gibran Statue, Bankstown. Photo credit: George Voulgaropoulos c/o Mapping Frictions

With one-third of those living in area coming from a non-English speaking country, this the media focuses on a “clash of civilisations” approach. But its residents, according to BYDS Creative Producer Kavita Bedford, have diverse stories worth celebrating, and forms the work BYDS has been creating in the region for the past 28 years. Through her prior media work, Bedford noticed a growing demand for “slowed down, local storytelling in a digital format.”

“There needs to be a space for people to reclaim the stories told about them and reinvent the process of storytelling,” Bedford said. Mapping Frictions recently featured at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May and managed to bring an array of local perspectives to the forefront – from those of refugee-turned-entrepreneurs to local spoken word poets.

The emergence of more versatile platforms presents a multitude of possibilities for sharing stories online, with its digital platform including short stories and video interviews. These are spread over an interactive map of Bankstown, highlighting each place and its significance to both the storyteller and the audience.

“The way stories and news are conveyed are changing and the access that digital formats can provide is incredible,” Bedford said. “These are stories that belong to Bankstown, but they are about more global issues – migration, displacement, dealing with tensions. To be able to open up local stories from Sydney’s western suburbs in an online format, we hope to make connections across cultural and geographical borders.”

This friction, created from the interaction of multiple local perspectives jostling for space within a community, produces energy — which can lead to new possibilities. One of the stories that helped create this friction is the community work of Murray Kamara.

Kamara was born Sierra Leone in 1990, but was forced to flee during the Civil War. He chose to settle in Bankstown due to its large Sierra Leonean community. Now a student at the University of Sydney, Kamara is completing a Bachelor of Arts and a Social Work degree. Kamara runs the Sierra Leone Youth Group, which holds intercultural events and awards nights for the African diasporas in Sydney’s south west. To date, his role as a Youth Ambassador has spurred numerous positive changes in community building.

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Murray Kumara. Photo credit: George Voulgaropoulos c/o Mapping Frictions

“I suppose this is what is called a ‘success story’ – and we need them,” Bedford said. “It’s also so poignant during this current climate which vilifies refugees, to see people doing such great work and realise what we may be missing out on with … strict [border protection] policies.”

It’s these local perspectives that forge connections across linguistic, cultural and geographic borders – exactly what Mapping Frictions aims to map. But to combat the mainstream media’s narrow stereotypes of Bankstown is no easy feat – a seemingly impossible task for a single project to achieve.

“We are not laying claim to being able to represent an entire community [because] no source can really do that. Rather, we have identified where the gaps are and what sorts of stories are not being told and trying to slowly rectify this, whilst also using it as a space to showcase artists.”

One of the project’s main objectives is for the public to look at Bankstown in a new perspective. “We would like people to stop and reconsider the image of a place and make these regions feel more accessible. But we would also like the stories to stand on their own, and be part of strong storytelling and oral history tradition,” said Bedford.

After presenting the project in numerous events across the state, BYDS plans to uphold the momentum by extending Mapping Frictions to other areas. Their vision is to map stories from other suburbs as part of a collective conversation on place. Several photography and digital storytelling workshops are in development to widen the scope of collaboration and promote more active community participation.

“The passion and support everyone involved in the project had for getting the stories out there and believing in the underlying cause for this project has been inspiring,” said Bedford.

 

The pilot of Mapping Frictions was supported by Australia Council for the Arts, and created in partnership with the University of Western Sydney.

If you would like to contribute articles, animations, short documentaries, photo essays or audio pieces to Mapping Frictions, email Kavita Bedford: kavitabyds@gmail.com

Keep up to date with the project on facebook.com/MappingFrictions, or to read Murray Kamara’s story – and more – check out mappingfrictions.com

Featured image credit: Paul Keating Park by George Voulgaropoulos c/o Mapping Frictions