In a Melbourne council in which 27% of people are born overseas and nearly 30% don’t speak English in the home, the Moonee Valley Incinerator Gallery is concerned with social cohesion and the promotion of equality between people of different cultures and religions.  As such the gallery hosts an annual award for artists of all mediums to address the betterment of society through social change.

This non-acquisitive award, which consists of three prizes, is called the Incinerator Art Award: Art for Social Change.  In 2016, two people from UNSW Art & Design took out the first and second place prizes.

Zanny Begg, a filmmaker and lecturer at UNSW Art & Design received the top prize (the Boathouse Award), and Lachlan Anthony, a sculpture, performance, and installation artist and UNSW Art & Design graduate, was the recipient of the second place prize (Incinerator Gallery Award). 

Begg’s winning work, 1001 Nights in Fairfield, explores what the artist terms a “minor history of Iraq”.  It combines well-known stories from the original classic, One Thousand and One Nights, compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age, with real-life stories from members of the Choir of Love; a choir established in the City of Fairfield, located in South Western Sydney and composed of members from Assyrian, Chaldean, and Syriac Iraqi backgrounds.  1001 Nights in Fairfield aims to lift the voices of these Iraqi minorities, many of whom are living in exile.  The music in the film comes from the Iraqi Maqam, a 400 year old musical tradition that emerged from the coffee houses of Baghdad, and which fosters a multicultural history intertwining Jewish, Christian, and Islamic influences.  Beggs says the film “combines documentary, imaginary sequences, and improvised fictions to explore the pressure, and power, of telling a story to survive.”

Zanny Begg and Lachlan Anthony were in a short list of 36 Australian artists exhibited as part of the overall Art for Social Change exhibition.  Participating artists include:

Lachlan Anthony (UNSW Art & Design), Zanny Begg (UNSW Art & Design), Peter Burke, Peter Cheng & Molly Biddle, Kevin Chin, Catherine Clover, Perran Costi (UNSW Art & Design), Adam Cusack, Gabrielle de Vietri, Julia deVille, Lauren Dunn, Kailum Graves, Matthew Greaves, Paul Handley (UNSW Art & Design), Deanna Hitti, Dominic Kavanagh, Deborah Kelly (UNSW Art & Design), Bridget Kennedy (UNSW Art & Design), Laresa Kosloff, Kristian Laemmle-Ruff, Ashlee Laing, Ben Landau, Sonia Leber & David Chesworth, Jorge Mansilla, Elyss McCleary, Sarah McEwan, Shane McGrath, Kent Morris, Salar Niknafs, Lani Seligman, Nola Taylor, Frank Veldze, Elvis Richardson & Virginia Fraser, Louisa Wang, Dianna Wells, Bethany Wheeler.