Based on her experiences, Kalyan is trying to compile a creative “faith’n culture” encyclopedia, “The World Through Me,” a joint collaboration between art agencies, schools, universities, libraries and local councils.
Art, they say, is a medium that transcends everything − gender, life choices, religion, political preference and culture. It is a silent force that bridges misunderstandings and gives audiences a new perspective − even those with the most stubborn minds.
That is why I chose art as the focal point for my encyclopaedia project. Originally, I had intended it as a youth project, but I realised that there was a greater calling, a greater need to correct misconceptions and stereotypes − to give people a chance to say: "Look at me, I'm nothing like what you read about in the media.”
I started life in a most unusual way. Born in a forest with only a checkered scarf to cover me, and hidden in the bush to hide us from the militias, my sister and I witnessed many unspeakable atrocities at an early age. We saw women and children abused, people rotting away on dusty red roads, people scrambling over each other for food, and branches used as weapons against the few.
We were lucky enough to have our names "pulled out of a hat," as they say, and were given an opportunity to start a new life in a new world. But it wasn't the greener pastures we had imagined. I could lament all the trials we had to undergo on our journey to our new home in Victoria, Australia. However, what I feel is important now, especially in light of Victoria’s Cultural Diversity Week, is to focus on more optimistic subjects, such as learning from each other through our stories how we overcame stigmas and prejudice.
Yes, I am a former refugee and spent my childhood growing up among bamboo shoots [on the border of Cambodia and Thailand] and in a small house behind a church [in New Zealand]. But I'm also an artist − a person who expresses herself through music and writing, jotting down the torrent of thoughts in my mind.
I'm a community worker, passionate about multicultural causes as a way to end intolerance. I’m also a business woman, developing creative ways to communicate and exchange ideas, and finding new opportunities for people to improve their lives.
That is me.
You can find out how to contribute to my encyclopaedia project at http://worldthroughme.com.
Also, check out events for Victoria’s Cultural Diversity Week.