Visual artist and Iraqi refugee Raneen Shamon arrived in Australia in 2017 from Jordan, where she had lived with her parents and younger brother for three years, waiting for their humanitarian visas to be approved.
Ms Shamon said that she was no stranger to displacement. Before moving to Jordan, she had already experienced internal displacement in Iraq due to the persecution of Iraqi Christians by terrorism.
“At age two, I was displaced within Iraq, and by age ten, we were displaced a second time,” she said.
“And by the time I was fourteen and displaced for the third time in 2014 because of ISIS who entered Iraq and colonised three cities, we moved to Jordan for immigration process, and I was no stranger to this experience.”
Ms Shamon said that life in Jordan was challenging because they had not anticipated that obtaining their humanitarian visas would take four years as they had valid cause for their application.
“We didn’t think it would take long because we had already suffered a lot.”
Ms Shamon said that although she missed one full year of school in Jordan, it was during this time that she had the opportunity to practice her artistic skills.
“I stayed without school for one year, but during this year, I spent my time focused on art.”
The Shamon family were greeted by Settlement Services International (SSI) at the airport, who provided them with settlement support services on arrival.
“When we first arrived, we stayed at my mum’s uncle’s house in Granville, and we then moved to Mt Druitt.”
When asked to comment on her first few years in Australia, Ms Shamon said that when she had started at the Evans Intensive English School in Blacktown, it soon became evident to her teachers that she was proficient enough in English and recommended that she attend high school.
“They told me I could finish high school and should start year 11 at St Bishoy in Mt Druitt,” she said.
“I enjoyed the Evans school and did lots of painting while I was there; I also designed the cover of the yearly magazine in 2017.”
After graduating from high school with a ‘Dux’ – an accreditation only awarded to one student per year as recognition of outstanding academic performance – she was offered a scholarship to start her tertiary studies at the University of Sydney.
“I am now studying at uni of Sydney and in my second year of my Bachelor of Visual Arts degree.
“I do painting and charcoal, and I’m exploring installation art.”
Ms Shamon said that she was connected to SSI’s Arts and Culture program in 2019 and was mentored through its Creative Pathway and Artist Development Program, which, through a suite of workshops and networking opportunities, provided her with supports on how to develop herself as an artist in Australia.
“They helped me with my exhibition at Blacktown Arts Centre and mentored me on how to find opportunities as an artist in Australia.
“SSI also supported with art supplies by giving me a voucher to purchase my own supplies.”
When asked about her future aspirations, Ms Shamon said she’d like to take an expansive approach to her work as an artist, including facilitating workshops, exhibitions and curating works herself.
“In future, after I finish my studies, I want to have my own academy of art, run workshops, and work as an art curator.
“For now, I have four upcoming exhibitions from June until August, and I’m also running workshops.”
Click here to view Ms Shamon’s Instagram and find out more about her artworks and upcoming exhibitions.