The Hunar Symposia team represent a group of passionate academics and artists who have come together because they believe in the mission of decolonizing knowledge of conflict, crisis and colonisation, through art. We're looking to create, together.
Meet some of the team below
Bilquis leads the Hunar collective, working at the intersection of theory and practice. Through Hunar , she seeks to create opportunities for discourse between theorists and practitioners.
Bilquis's research focuses on the mobilisation of the creative process through moments of social and cultural rupture. Her work takes a decolonial approach to making sense of arts movements in conflict spaces, Kabul in particular. She is particularly interested in art's public pedagogy potential. She's also a bit of a sci fi geek.
Bilquis is Lecturer in Arts at the University of Canberra. Before that she was Head of Inclusion at the Sydney Opera House where she drove the House's Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Strategy. She was also a founding member of Refugee Art Project.
Bilquis's monograph, titled "A Sociology from Art Praxis: Expression and resistance in Kabul' is due to come out in 2024 through Palgrave.
Sofia is Hunar's Chief Operations Officer and is an international lawyer specialising in the laws of armed conflict, refugee protection, and forced migration. After commencing her legal career at a major commercial law firm in Sydney, Sofia has served as a refugee caseworker for Amnesty International, the Australian Red Cross, and as acted as a humanitarian volunteer in offshore immigration detention centres. She has researched crisis response in the migration context for the Overseas Development Institute and has worked on war crimes trials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
Sofia teaches International Humanitarian Law, most recently as a sessional lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney. She holds a special interest in forensic architecture as a mechanism for preventing and investigating atrocity crimes and has trained in open-source investigations with Bellingcat.
A founding director of Improv Theatre Sydney, Cale has been performing improvised comedy theatre since 1988 and has taught, workshopped, directed, produced and performed shows around the world ever since. He trained through the Second City Theatre Company in Toronto. Since moving to Australia, among other achievements, Cale has directed and produced Theatresports® to sell-out audiences at the 1700-seat Enmore Theatre through Impro Australia and was the improv director for Foxtel‘s Whose Line Is It Anyway? Australia.
In his other life, Cale is a media academic, investigating the confluence of journalism and comedy, teaching media and communications studies. Cale’s philosophy on improv is relationship focused, and he feels strongly that the core principles we use in improv can make our everyday lives better.
Cale was part of a team awarded a UTS Social Impact Grant to work with the refugee community in Cisarua, Indonesia using improv to combat mental health stresses that accompany not knowing one’s statehood. The team has since returned to Cisarua and continues a relationship with the community.
Cale is Hunar's Chief Finance officer.
Timothy Laurie is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication at the University of Technology Sydney. His core research interests include cultural theory, gender and sexuality studies, studies in popular culture, and philosophy. Timothy's current research is focused on Australian boys and cinema, as part of his role as a Chief Investigator on the Australia Research Council grant "Australian Boys: Beyond the Boy Problem" (2021-2023).
Timothy has co-authored The Theory of Love: Ideals, Limits, Futures (Palgrave, 2021) with Hannah Stark, which interrogates ethical and political understandings of love in the wider context of feminist and queer arguments around coupledom, marriage equality, and family diversity.
He has also co-edited Unsettled Voices: Beyond Free Speech in the Late Liberal Era (Routledge, 2021) with Tanja Dreher and Michael Griffiths. The collection identifies the limitations and the consequences of free speech debates in contemporary political arenas, and explores possibilities for combating racism within and against dominant liberal political frameworks.
Timothy is the Managing Editor for Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies .
Chrisanthi is an academic and former journalist who has reported and investigated conflict situations as varied as housing estates in regional towns and refugee communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Her work focuses on amplifying the voices of those most marginalised and creating links between local and global discourses. She passionately believes that what counts as knowledge is too often circumscribed thanks to limited interpretations by powerful actors. She is an academic at the University of South Australia and a research associate at the Centre for Media Transition at the University of Technology Sydney and her first book Borderland: decolonizing the words of war is a must read!
Luis Eduardo Q. Guerra is a Latin American, a Brazilian, and a Nordestino. He is also a PhD candidate at UTS’ Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences where he teaches and researches.
Formally trained in Communication (BA) and Visual Arts (MA) in Brazil, Guerra has since then been investigating the potential of aesthetic-political practices in facilitating participatory experiences and challenging the limits of our current democracies.
Guerra’s current research focuses on memory activism in the Brazilian post-dictatorship. By talking with third generation activists and reflecting upon the current politics of dictatorial memory in Brazil, he explores micro-macro intersections within the process of disputing narratives about traumatic pasts.
Katharine is an academic, writer and art educator. She currently teaches Communications at the University of Technology Sydney and has in the past worked in education at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
Her doctoral research focused on contemporary art practice in Australia, looking at the work of six established artists and exploring the notion of expanded agency and the influence of the everyday in their practice.
Marco is currently the Outreach Program Coordinator at UTS Women in Engineering and IT. He was Project Manager for the recently completed Maths Inside project, a multi-agency research venture funded by the Australian Commonwealth and based at UTS. His professional background is in academic skills development, educational equity and the transition to higher education; he has taught in humanities and science subjects at London School of Economics, Queen’s University of Belfast and University of Technology Sydney. While at University College London he set up and managed student engagement and equity projects including the Transition Programme, some of which have been recognized in national awards schemes; at UCL he was Director of the UK National Transition Conference from 2007-2012. His research interests and publications include work on student engagement, academic literacies, philosophical thought and history; he recently received the UTS 2021 Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Award for Team Teaching.
Chrisoula is a writer and cultural producer based between Athens and Manchester. Working at the intersection of visual culture, cultural politics, and resilience studies, Lionis holds a PhD in Visual Culture (UNSW Australia, 2013) and is the author of Laughter in Occupied Palestine: Comedy and Identity in Art and Film (I.B. Tauris, 2016). She has published widely including in journals Social Text, Cultural Politics, and the Middle East Journal for Culture and Communication and has curated projects including Beyond the Last Sky: Contemporary Palestinian Art and Video (Australian Centre for Photography, 2012).
Lionis’ has held several international teaching and research positions, including at the National Institute for Experimental Arts (UNSW Australia) in Sydney, a the Department of Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens, and most recently a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellowship at the University of Manchester for Horizon2020 project Laughing in an Emergency: Humour, Cultural Resilience and Contemporary Art. Lionis is the Co-director of the pedagogical platform Artists for Artists and is currently a Research Fellow on Understanding Displacement Aesthetics - an AHRC project that analyses the impact of artistic responses to displacement and refugeedom.
Mehal completed her PhD at UTS, where she also taught social and political science for 10 years. Her book, 'Heroes, Villains and the Muslim Exception' was published by Melbourne University Press and considers representations of Muslim and Arab masculinities on Australian screens.
Mehal has researched and published on issues of representation, gender, race and religion and the intersections thereof. Her work has included an examination of women’s agency as they navigate experiences of divorce and domestic violence, as well as using improv theatre to build resilience in young people in Western Sydney and in refugee communities abroad.
Mehal is the deputy chair of Arts and Cultural Exchange and is currently the Manager of Community Engaged Learning at the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion at UTS, where she overseas UTS Shopfront community coursework program and the UTS SOUL Award.
Mehal has a passion for empowering students by facilitating spaces for them to use their unique skill sets to make a difference in their communities.
Safdar Ahmed is a Sydney-based artist, musician and educator. He is a founding member of the community art organisation Refugee Art Project, and member of eleven, a collective of contemporary Muslim Australian artists, curators and writers. Safdar is the author of Reform and Modernity in Islam (IB Tauris, 2013) and the Walkley Award–winning documentary web-comic Villawood: Notes from an immigration detention centre (2015). That web comic was expanded and adapted into the graphic novel, Still Alive (2021), which is available through Twelve Panels Press.
Refugee Art Project is a not-for-profit community art and cultural development organisation dedicated to supporting people of an asylum seeker or refugee background through art workshops and collaborations. The organisation began through facilitated art workshops in the Villawood Detention Centre in 2011 and is now based in the Thirning Villa studio in Ashfield, Sydney. The intention is to facilitate the agency and self expression of people of an asylum seeker or refugee background, to deepen public understanding about the refugee issue and the realities of Australia’s detention regime.
Dominique Irlinger is a Sydney based writer and Chief Executive Officer at the IMAX Theatre Sydney. His expertise includes operations and film programming for independent cinemas, such as IMAX and previously, Dendy Cinemas.
Prior to working in the Australian cinema industry, Dominique studied Geopolitics, International Relations and Contemporary History at the Sorbonne in Paris and in Montpellier, where he researched the geopolitical consequences of the Kosovo War for his Master’s thesis and later took on studying the Rwandan Genocide.
Thereafter, Dominique took his skills to China where he spent a year teaching at Xiaogan University before finding his way to Sydney Australia. He strongly believes in the inherent value of the arts in society, and in his current writing seeks to rethink the way history is taught, understood and remembered, by exposing the erasure and invisibility in western culture and in the definitions of national identities. Today, he holds special interest in showcasing a greater range of international cinema rarely seen on the big screen.
Sonia hails from Lahore, Pakistan and lives on Gadigal land. She is a lawyer, writer and currently a graduate student and casual academic. She has worked extensively in both the legal and development fields in Pakistan, including as a human rights attorney and as a legal consultant for a government commission on women’s rights. She has also been part of various activist spaces in Pakistan and is a co-founder of a Pakistani feminist group called The Feminist Collective. She is interested in locating decolonial theory and practice not in Western academia, but in the feminist and liberationary teachings of vernacular poetic traditions and social movements of South Asia.
Sonia’s research sits at the intersection of law, anthropology and colonial, and postcolonial history. Her doctoral project investigates the postcolonial security state and its deployment of (colonial and contemporary) security laws against racialized communities and progressive movements in the backdrop of the War on Terror.
Izabella is a writer, researcher, activist and multicultural youth policy specialist focussing on building up culturally supportive spaces. Izabella's work and research is interested in how migrant settler communities can aid in decolonisation projects by building an understanding of and solidarity with First Nations communities. Izabella is currently completing her Masters of Research thesis Amplifying the Third Space; Exploring the Art and Knowledge Production of Refugee Women Living in Australia at the University of Sydney. Izabella's work has featured in The Guardian, Overland, The ABC and Eureka Street Most recently Izabella collaborated with anonymous artists and Refugee Art Project to create "Take it easy" which was on exhibition at Documenta15.
Naomi is a communications specialist passionate about amplifying voices from minority communities. She is the proud daughter of Singaporean and Croatian immigrants. Naomi is a first generation university graduate and has a PhD in stem cell biology from the University of Technology Sydney. She was a senior research development officer at the University of Sydney where she specialised in providing strategic advice on medical and health grants.
As a freelance science communicator Naomi aims to make science accessible. She is co-ordinating an Indigenous outreach project with DeadlyScience that is created with and owned by Elders who maintain autonomy over the project and its direction. Naomi is the lead scientist on FA(C)TS, a visual art piece that will be featured at the MCA. This project was co-designed with fat, thick and curvy folks, and uses science to demonstrate what health looks like through an intentionally intersectional lens. Naomi is also a video presenter and producer for science and health at the ABC.