‘I was born in Tanzania but Newtown was where I landed with my family when I was 8. It was our first encounter of Sydney and shaped our idea of Australia being this multicultural society and had a very positive impact. Newtown is a bubble but it shows that we have capacity to be that way as a whole. I feel like it reflects our best side and what we could be on a wider scale.
‘I came from a country where you just see one face so to speak which was my brownness. That didn’t really mean anything until I came here. When I came here I was different but there were just so many other differences that it was cool to be different. Newtown is a melting pot of cultures and demographics where we celebrate uniqueness and just being who you are.
‘I really believe in following my intuition and to follow what lights up my heart in whatever I do.
‘Follow your joy – go where you glow; go where you grow.’
‘My partner Gary passed away in 1990 and left me $10,000 – but he said that I should use the money for my art. I was a butcher at the time and had been studying art as a hobby at night. I’d always wanted to go to National Art School so he left me the money and said I should apply and go. I got accepted and spent three years doing my Bachelor’s degree there and it was terrific.
‘It was the catalyst for me to be in the position in the art world I’m in today. I started the Lennox Street Art Studios 20 years ago with another artist called Steven Perrin. We now have 36 artists here. Gary would be so very proud of the studios – he’d be very, very happy.
‘For a city like Sydney, having accessible art studios like this is very important – there should be more of them. A city is not just big business – it’s about communities and being creative. Imagine a boring city with nothing but big business – how boring would that be? You need places like Newtown where there are creative people around and there’s variety in style.’
‘When I started out, I was just a really enthusiastic person that saw they needed help wrangling zombies. Seven years later I’m the head zombie of it all. I’m a bit of a horror buff so I love the gore but I also love the fact that it does raise money for a good cause – The Brain Foundation.
‘The Brain Foundation studies brain and neurological disorders and illnesses and so it covers things like brain cancer and stuff like that but they also look in to things like dementia and that sort of thing so it’s quite broad. I’ve had friends who’ve been affected and I’ve seen how much it can impact a family.
‘Every year the number of zombies doubles so we need as many zombie wranglers as possible. When it started out around 7 years ago we had about 100 zombies and it basically just multiplied every year and so now we’re one of the biggest walks in Australia for it. It’s really cool. Being a zombie wrangler is not a difficult job but we need all the help we can get.
‘Zombie Walks take place all over the world. Some of the earlier ones started in San Francisco but not all of them are fundraisers. I think that we’re the main one in Australia that does fundraising but the rest of them are more for horror buffs and for people who want to just get bloody and messy and scare the general public.’
‘I feel scared. Who’s going to protect me at the end of the night? I don’t know if they’re watching me, or not. My family gets scared when they see things like this. They don’t want me to work anymore. They said what if they come next time and you’re there and they know I will defend myself and things will be worse.
‘Last night about half an hour after I finished work I received a call from security. They told me you have a break in or something through your windows. I was at the city with my friend having a cup of coffee and relaxing after work so I had to come straight back and found the police here. I saw my whole front door is smashed and I was surprised and shocked and really, really upset about it.
‘Also on the Friday my window cleaner told me to come and see what they’d scratched on the window. They’d written “F*** Arabs”.
‘I don’t know why this guy or guys think I’m the leader for Arab people or I’m the leader for Muslims – they’re calling me to abuse me about what’s happening overseas or something like that which is not my fault. I’m not doing nothing wrong here.
‘This is not the first time. For the last 7-8 months, every month, 2-3 calls were received threatening and swearing – talking in a racist way. I’ve been here 14 years. I’ve never had problems like this before.
‘I don’t want to know who did it. God will forgive them one day. I will forgive them if they stop doing this but I’m a bit surprised about the media. Usually if a Muslim guy does something, they put it on the TV next half an hour but if something happens to a Muslim guy, they’ll think about it a hundred times before they put it on.
‘I need the police this time to take it more seriously. It’s happened before, (they take a) statement, things happen but they never come back to me. I never heard from them again.
‘The whole community (here in Newtown) – the people, they’re really nice. They’ve been supporting me all day today – calling me, saying sorry – I love Newtown, it’s a beautiful place.’
‘When I was a kid I loved to draw. I loved creating stuff and imagining things but slowly over time it disappeared and I stopped drawing. When I hit my 30s, I decided to start getting up 15 minutes earlier before work each day. The first time I did it was really strange because I was just sitting there with this blank piece of paper and didn’t know what to do. It just grew bigger and bigger and now it’s about 1½-2 hours a day.
‘I used to see these two older men outside this café in Glebe. I drew them and imagined a story that perhaps they’d fallen on hard times but really they secretly controlled all the money in the world. I became friends with one of them and discovered he was a fine arts student back in the 70s or 80s. He’d actually been an artist all that time so it was a cool moment where the story I’d imagined came in to clash with a reality.
‘I always thought that I was normal as a kid – the way I thought – until I started talking to people and then I realised that maybe I’m not so normal – maybe I’ve got a slightly different perspective. I’ve always connected dots A & G rather than A & B. There is something inside me that just tries to connect things that are seemingly unconnected and so I love creating stories about the people I draw.
‘This whole process of rediscovering art has changed me a lot. It’s shown me possibilities and it’s helped me to connect with a whole bunch of people that I wouldn’t have before. It expands the world and it makes me much more empathetic for people. I’m now more patient and humble in how I try and understand them.’
Oscar Finch will be holding his first Honesty Box Gallery Exhibition at the HON Live launch event on Saturday 5th September. He will be also roaming the crowds incognito drawing people and creating stories about them.