‘When I threatened to move out, she would always say to me, “If you move out you’re not part of the family anymore”. At the start she said she’d disowned me. She didn’t talk to me at first. It was really messy. There were a lot of words and anger but she also grew up in a war zone and her family wasn’t the most affectionate. So I don’t really hold that against her. I understand her reaction and I expected it. She always threatened to do that and she did it in the end.
“I moved out of home last year and in Arab, but also Iraqi families in particular, that’s a really big no-no. I went through a period where my family’s relationship, until now, became very fraught because of that. It’s seen as betrayal to the family. The culture is rooted in family and you can’t break it up until you’re married and you have your own family.
“My family’s quite conservative and I just didn’t fit there anymore. I couldn’t really see myself growing as a person. I had to sensor my thoughts a lot and I didn’t want to live like that. As soon as I saw the opportunity to move I did it.
“It’s definitely a clash of culture. I’m a writer and I guess that’s also what my writing’s about – the relationship between first generation immigrants like my mum who came here in adulthood and their kids who came up here being Australian with different values.”
‘Most of the women I see have this desire to be the perfect mother which is one of the drivers for them getting depressed and anxious. I’m a Professor of Psychiatry specialising in women’s mental health – in particular perinatal mental health. We now have screening for post-natal depression but now we need to help the child and help her parent the child so the inter-generational transmission isn’t happening.
‘The primary carer, which is quite often the mother, is the prototype for every future relationship that this child is going to have. This is where you learn trust and where you learn how to interact. If someone is depressed or so withdrawn because they’ve got psychotic illness, then it makes it really hard.
‘Unfortunately these days we’re trying to be so many things and the result for some people sadly is that they’re not doing any of them well. Guilt keeps coming up again and again – that’s a recurring theme.
‘The reality is kids will suckle the good stuff – anything you’re able to give them. Basically you’ve only got to get it right 30% of the time, try to get it right another 30% and the rest of the time, well the kids will cope!
‘Be bigger, stronger wiser and kind no matter how little you know about parenting – you know more than your child. If you don’t know it, you can find out – ask someone about it.’
‘I grew up in a creative home & started painting young. Both my parents were artists. Dad’s a sculptor. My mum did study art but went on to study architecture.
‘My mum’s graphic drawing probably influenced my early work more than my current work. I’ve always been quite obsessed with architecture and buildings. My dad’s taught me things over the years – techniques and ideas. He’s good to talk to about art as he’s got a pretty good understanding. I’ve learnt art history and some of that kind of stuff from him as well – just in all the natural ways your parents influence you.
‘I started out writing much more traditional graffiti so I was working with letter structures and formations. It was quite sharp, aggressive, very technical. About 4-5 years ago, the graffiti thing started to get a little bit old for me & I found the structure of traditional graffiti quite restrictive. I was studying art at the time & was doing oil paintings so it was like marrying my oil paintings with my graffiti work. I lost the letter structure completely & started to experiment with figure work & landscape works. It took a few years to get direction but it’s definitely evolved a lot.’
How do you work the concepts on your walls around the Inner West?
‘Sometimes I have ideas in the back of my mind but need to find the right wall. Mostly however, I like to react to space. If I have a wall lined up, I’ll take photographs of it. I’ll play around with different compositions. Everything is very much designed to fit in that space. Sometimes the trees surrounding the walls can influence the way you lay out your composition – the street, the sky, the buildings behind it. Everything can play a part. I think that’s pretty important when you’re a street artist. You’ve got to react to your environment.
‘I’ve got a lot of walls in the Inner West lined up – it’s just finding time to actually paint them and getting funding as well. Hopefully this year I’ll paint about 10 new murals in the Inner West. I’m going to be working overseas quite a lot as well. Just when I’m home I’ll do what I can. I’m going to be back in Europe & America – and in New Zealand as well which is exciting.’
What’s been the best part of working overseas for you personally?
‘Probably just the people I’ve met over the last couple of years. I’ve met really good, interesting people. For me, that’s probably my favourite thing about travelling and working. It’s been so nice to be able to go somewhere and leave your mark a little bit as well. It’s good to be immersed with local artists & local people. Sometimes you’re up a lift & out of the way but sometimes people chat, watch & take photographs. It’s kind of cool being able to produce work & interact with the community at the same time. You get a direct response & a direct feel. It’s nice to know you’re appreciated sometimes as well even if you are just a visual polluter in many ways!’
‘My mum just got out of becoming really sick. She had a bit of a drug habit in other words. My father died early this year so I’ve had to deal with a lot of grief and that kind of stuff. We’re all strong people and everyone has a story. It makes you who you are and if you can get through that pain, it makes you stronger.
‘The hardest part is trying to get my mum to be stable. She’s been in this drug habit for as long as I can remember. The fact that she’s still alive is surprising. She won’t contact us and then she will. It’s really stressful because we don’t know what to do. I’ve got little siblings that live with my grandparents and are really worried about her. I want to do more to help but unfortunately I can’t stop her from being in this habit. There is nothing I can do except for just support my family. So that’s what I’m trying to do at the moment.
‘When you’re dealing with chaos all your life, you just want stability. When I say to people, I just want to get a job, they ask me why and tell me that working sucks. But I’ve never had a job and I want to do something. I want to contribute to society. I want to have an income, have a place to live, pay rent, have a stable life where I can work, see my friends, have a routine and not have to live in chaos.
‘Stability to me means having a home, having a place to go to and knowing who the people in your life are that support you. When you’re in too much of a chaotic environment, your head gets chaotic, you don’t know who you are and you lose sense of everything. Your sense of reality is warped and that’s what I’m trying to heal from now. I’m just hoping that eventually I won’t have to deal with that anymore.’
‘My mum passed away when I was about 19 so I had to look after my brother and sister on my own. They were 12 and 13 at the time. I don’t know how I did it. It’s hard looking after teenagers at any age. I managed for about 4 years and then I couldn’t do it anymore so my sister went to live with my family up in the country and my brother went to my dad.’
What do you miss most about your mum?
‘The fact that I didn’t have to be responsible. I miss her all the time. Every day.’