Installation view of Mia Boe’s <em>For the angels in paradise</em> 2023 on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne.   <br/>
Image: Sean Fennessy<br/>
Past program
Booked out

For Melbourne Now, the Wheeler Centre and NGV come together for an afternoon of art and storytelling.

Hear from writers Anna Emina El Samad, Maya Hodge and Susie Anderson as they share readings responding to the work of Melbourne Now artists Mia Boe, Deanna Hitti and Kelly Koumalatsos.

Mia Boe and Deanna Hitti will then take the stage with our writers to discuss the experience of creating work in Melbourne/Naarm that captures their own varied and rich cultural ancestries and heritages, along with host Myles Russell-Cook, Senior Curator of Australian and First Nations Art, NGV.

Presented in partnership with the Wheeler Centre.


Myles Russell-Cook is the Senior Curator of Australian and First Nations Art at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Myles is responsible for the NGV’s collections of Australian Art, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art and the Art of Oceania, as well as work by First Nations artists globally. Myles has a long-standing interest in cultural, gender and sexual diversity within both Australian and International contemporary practice, and has worked across a broad range of exhibitions and projects. Myles is one of a team of curators who collectively oversee major contemporary art exhibitions including NGV Triennial, and Melbourne Now.


Mia Boe is a Melbourne-based painter from Brisbane with Butchulla and Burmese ancestry. Her work is influenced by the inheritance and ‘disinheritance’ of these two cultures, often responding to Empire’s deliberate and violent interferences with the cultural heritages of Burma/Myanmar and K’gari (Fraser Island). For Melbourne Now, Boe responded to a series of linocuts and paintings by Australian social realists Noel Counihan and Russell Drysdale in her work For the angels in paradise, 2023. Using the NGV Collection as a reference point, Boe challenges notions of representation and imperial power. Counihan’s 1959 linocut of Namatjira crucified on the cross memorialises the artist’s unjust treatment by the government authorities of the day, which ultimately lead to his death. In the same way, Boe’s site-specific mural speaks to notions of the loss and displacement of First Nations people. In one of the nine paintings, a shirtless black figure is seen handcuffed by a police officer in blue uniform. Using portraiture and tableaux, For the angels in paradise extends Boe’s work of tracing historical trauma and violence to open up new perspectives on present-day Australia.

Deanna Hitti’s multidisciplinary practice explores the nuanced relationships between Middle Eastern and Western cultures. Informed by her Lebanese heritage, Hitti’s work often references historical and cultural material to reveal how perceptions of difference are constructed. Her large-scale prints and artist books employ various print methods, including cyanotypes, photography and screenprinting. Hitti’s new work, M is for madraseh (school), 2022, on display in Melbourne Now, is an extension of her installation A is for alam (pen), which was first exhibited as part of Handmade Universe at the State Library of Victoria in 2022. The work re-imagines over 100 images from French orientalist paintings made during the early period of colonialism. Hitti employs an historical method of reproduction, the cyanotype, to reclaim and reconfigure distorted depictions of Middle Eastern people, erasing and reprinting these archival images to transform their misrepresentations into ghostly presences. The work is then overlaid with a two-colour screenprint that teaches an Arabic-speaking child learning the English language how to write the Latin letter ‘m’, recalling textbooks that Hitti herself studied as preparation for starting school. The resulting work is a subtle commentary on how notions of ‘self’ and ‘other’ are formed, practised and contrived through both image and text.

Anna Emina El Samad is an educator, curator and writer based in Naarm. Having completed a thesis on diversity in the arts titled: (Re)claiming the Narrative: Amplifying the Voices of Australian Muslim Artists, Anna has centered her practice around collaboration and seeks to create accessible opportunities for people of colour to connect with contemporary art in Australia.

Maya Hodge is an emerging writer, curator and creative based on the lands of the Kulin Nation. Her writing has been published by Kill Your Darlings, Art Collector, Hardie Grant, Cordite Poetry Review and Overland. In 2021, Hodge was selected as a runner-up for the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition and was shortlisted for the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Indigenous Poetry Prize earlier this year.

Susie Anderson writes from the nexus of compassion and resistance. Her poetry and nonfiction are widely published online and in print, such as in Archer, Artist Profile, Artlink, un magazine, Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia and in many poetry anthologies. In 2018, she was runner-up in the Overland Poetry Prize and awarded the Emerging Writer’s Fellowship at State Library Victoria; in 2019, she was awarded a Writer’s Victoria Neilma Sidney Grant and a recipient of the Overland Writers Residency. In 2020, she edited the online journal, Tell Me Like You Mean It Volume 4, for Australian Poetry and Cordite Poetry Review. She is a 2021 black&write! Fellow. Her professional practice is as a digital producer in the arts and creative industries ranging from Sydney, London and Melbourne. Leveraging her position within institutions, she attempts to bring about change by uncovering and amplifying stories from her own and other communities. Descended from the Wergaia and Wemba Wemba peoples of Western Victoria, she currently lives on Boon Wurrung land in Melbourne.

Please note Kelly Koumalatsos is unfortunately no longer able to speak at this event. 

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