The arts are a universal language that breaks down cultural divides, celebrates diversity and inspires togetherness. This year’s winners in the artistic achievement category have both achieved great success sharing their varied artistic endeavours with the world. We invited them to share their stories.
Winner: Xin Er Neoh from Malaysia
Sharing culture through music
When Xin Er arrived in Adelaide, she felt right at home in the sister city to her hometown of Georgetown, Penang. She says life in Adelaide has helped her to appreciate her Chinese/Malaysian culture even more. And Xin Er is sharing her culture with the people of Adelaide through her beautiful voice with performances at cultural events and other locations around the city.
Tell us how you have embraced your Chinese/Malaysian culture since you’ve been in Adelaide?
I think when I was back home, I didn’t really appreciate my culture. My ancestry is Chinese, and I’ve come to celebrate that more in Adelaide where there is a big Chinese community and events like the Winter Solstice Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and OzAsia Festival. I was honoured to perform at the StudyAdelaide Taste of Australia dinner, where I sang in my Malay language at the Adelaide Town Hall. It’s surprising that it’s been in Adelaide where I’ve embraced my culture. I even learned to make glutinous rice dumplings here. I think being able to connect with the Chinese/Malaysian culture here has helped to reduce my homesickness.
Tell us about some of your other experiences singing in Adelaide.
Once I had settled in with my new life in Adelaide, I wanted to do something with my musical skills that would be for other people. I wrote to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and they said I could be on the roster to perform on the grand piano. Once they saw my performance, they asked me to sing at the ANZAC Day ceremony. I learned the Australian national anthem and fell in love with the song.
Patients can make a request, and if I know it, I’ll sing. One day a man asked me to sing “The Rose”. He said it was his wedding song and that his wife had died. He sang along with me, and we both were getting teary as we performed. It was a special moment. I still play every week when I can, and they’re very flexible around my studies.
What does winning this award mean to you?
It is a very pleasant surprise. It means a lot to me as I didn’t even expect to hear back. I know I try to do my best and I am proud to use my music to leave something behind in this community.
What’s the best thing about living in Adelaide?
Everyone here is so nice. The bus drivers always say hello and people want to help you. When I asked for directions, someone offered to walk with me to my destination. We come from all over the world, but we all feel like we belong as part of Adelaide.
Highly Commended: Yidi Chen from China
Since arriving in Adelaide, Yidi has been sharing her passion for traditional Chinese art with the community. With 15 years of experience studying drawing, Yidi found a perfect volunteer opportunity as an art teacher at The Studio at the Art Gallery of South Australia. In this role, Yidi has taught more than 500 Adelaide children how to explore their creativity and imagination through art. She’s also provided translation services to the gallery, for the artworks in the exhibition, “China and the World.”
Yidi is also leaving her mark on the landscape of South Australia providing a site analysis and design concepts for a walking trail on Kangaroo Island and contributing to several projects as a landscape architecture intern, including one to design a play space for monkeys at Adelaide Zoo.