Migrants get voices heard in new Christchurch art exhibition

A new exhibition in Christchurch hopes to give New Zealand's resettled community a place to share their stories. 

A Collective Voice tells the tales of people who've started a new life here, in the hopes of bringing people together.

Creator Tiffany Singh says she was disheartened by the way migrants in New Zealand were being talked about as statistics, rather than people.

"I thought it was really important to present a different narrative to that conversation, from the people who were concerned, or from the resettled community themselves," she told Newshub.

Combining film, art, and storytelling, A Collective Voice shows how people of different cultures can come together as one. 

"[It takes] quite social and political ideas that are contemporary at the moment, and inverting that narrative to be about who we are as people, and how we can support each other to be better people and make New Zealand better at this time by embracing the people that are coming here," she says.

Visitors can listen to migrant stories, and those who are from the resettled community themselves are encouraged to record theirs, to add to the installation.

"As you record your story, your journey and your story is charted on a world map, and it generates a little boat that pops up and comes down to New Zealand as your story plays," says Singh.

Fifteen-hundred metres of ribbon are covered in the Buddhist mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum' - referring to wellbeing, and love for all things - something Singh wants visitors to keep in mind as they move through the installations.

"Trying to break down those biases and position it human to human, person to person, really removes some of that and so we can relate to people," she says.

The collaboration with the Auckland Resettled Community Coalition encourages visitors to go in with an open heart, not just an open mind.

"I guess it's a way of opening up the narrative to a new audience, and asking people to listen from a personal or humanitarian aspect of what it's like for people, and to move past some of our biases."

Singh says visitors can relate to how hard it can be for migrants, as most people know what it's like to feel sad or lonely.

"Even though I haven't had the personal experience, I definitely have the empathy and sympathy to want to show people that tolerance and compassion and do a lot," she says.

A Collective Voice is on at the Centre for Contemporary Art until August 5 - but the booth will move around and collect stories for five years - building a picture of New Zealand's diversity.