Connecting culture, inspiring harmony

Under The Cover, Issue XXXII - A new Era for Old traditions

In a world that’s becoming increasingly interconnected, preserving and celebrating cultural traditions has taken on a new significance. Technology is sweeping us along at breakneck speed, changing the way we relate to the world and others; the centripetal force of globalization is increasingly homogenizing the whole world into a bland pastiche, and the generation of people who had a closer link to the land and to the past are passing on. We are facing a potential extinction crisis of folk knowledge, tradition, and culture, and we urgently need to bridge the gap between the elderly and young generations, the familiar and the foreign, to restore balance and ensure that we save as much as we can. Celebrating cultural and folklore traditions may well be the way forward. Honoring our roots becomes the gateway to a culturally richer and more harmonious world. Traditions are the threads that weave the tapestry of our identity, reflecting the collective wisdom, beliefs, and values of generations past. They offer us a window into the stories of those who came before us, providing insights into their struggles, triumphs, and the ways they found meaning in the world. However, as the tides of time continue to shift, traditions often find themselves at a crossroads, and that is when the old can meet the new in a dance of cultural exchange, where the rhythms of history converge with the beats of progress.

As we open ourselves to the riches of other cultures, we realize that there is a profound beauty in the diversity of human expression. The melodies of different traditions can harmonize, creating a symphony of cultural understanding and appreciation. These connections do not erase the boundaries that define us but invite us to explore our shared humanity. We learn that despite our differences, universal threads tie us together–compassion, empathy, and the pursuit of a better future for ourselves and future generations.

Dorcas Maphakela

shares this vision with the Victorian Multicultural Commission, which organized the photographic exhibition “Capturing Culture: Multicultural Victoria in Focus” last year. The exhibition was held at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum and celebrated the resilience of Victoria’s multicultural communities. Capturing Culture presented the resilience and lived experiences of multicultural communities and created a visual record that captured the vibrancy and connectedness of multicultural communities.

One of the competition categories (faces) showcased the diverse visages of Australia’s multicultural landscape and the stories behind them. For the cover of this issue of Segmento, we selected Dorcas, a portrait of Dorcas Maphakela by Deshani Berhardt, a photographer and graphic designer originally from Sri Lanka, now living in Melbourne.

Dorcas Maphakela

Deshani says she chose the faces category because the submission required a statement explaining the story told by the image, and to her, there was no better way than including a quote by Dorcas, the person the story is about, “a beautiful, strong woman that inspires me.”

South African-Australian Dorcas Maphakela describes herself as “a dynamic doer who wears many hats.” She is a community leader, writer, visual artist, lecturer at the University of Melbourne, TV presenter, public speaker, and holistic well-being advocate who uses art and words to share knowledge and inspire people to live deeply fulfilling lives. She founded Oz African TV (OATV), an award-winning digital platform for and about the African diaspora in Australia, and co-founded Yo CiTY, a platform that champions cultural diversity through art and music. She works as a Producer and Creative Agency Manager at Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV).

Her work was acknowledged with a Media Award from the Victorian Multicultural Commission for “outstanding reporting on issues of importance to diverse communities and reporting which contributes to Victoria’s cross-cultural understanding.” When Segmento spoke to Dorcas, she pointed out that multiculturalism is not simply about politically correct optics and that minority ethnic people should not be treated as tokens:

I work in a space where we champion the fact that each of us should strive as we are, still sharing, appreciating, and connecting with other people. In my case, I come from South Africa, and as I work in a place where the majority of people are African, there is an expectation that I represent that group of people by default. Sometimes I think it’s unfair, sometimes, I think I am privileged. However, I have also learned that people classified as “culturally diverse” are often put into a box.

In light of this warning, when we asked her about what she thought about the theme of this issue of Segmento, “connecting cultures,” she smiled and said:

I like that! “Connecting cultures” acknowledges that there are many different cultures and that our objective is not one of assimilation; we can connect as people on common grounds, on similar values such as compassion and empathy, and the pursuit of peace and harmony.

We chose this photo for our cover image because it was produced in the context of a celebration of multicultural identities and because of Dorcas’ inspiring personality. It represents a triptych: an artwork with three elements. In our case, the beautiful photograph by Deshani Berhardt itself; the subject of Dorcas and her story, and, finally, our own response as viewers of the photograph as we contemplate the significance of the theme of “Connecting Cultures: Inspiring Harmony.”


Cover Photographer Deshani Berhardt

Model Dorcas Maphakela

Article photography by Wild Hardt