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Nightmares of Burma - a long way away for 'Bluey"
Old 16th November 2009, 09:28 PM   #1
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Default Nightmares of Burma - a long way away for 'Bluey"

SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald
John Huxley
November 16, 2009

TO HIS friends, teachers and step-parents, the Burmese-born Say Ne Blu Zu is known simply as Bluey: a proud Australian, a kid who always wears a smile, a young man with an exceptional talent for art.

This week all three have been on display, as Bluey and other students from the south-western Sydney gifted and talented visual arts program, based at Fairfield High School, put on their first public show.

Bluey's major work in the exhibition is Homage to the Australian Landscape, featuring a wooden slab hut, winding creek and straggly eucalypts.

He says in halting English that it is a work of imagination, ''a compilation'' drawn from transposed local trees, invented skies and other features found in magazine photographs.

For Bluey, who is 16, has never been into the bush, and arrived in Australia only two years ago after a nightmare childhood spent in a refugee camp, where both his parents died.

When he was two he and his family - Christian members of the Karen people - were forced to flee their village on the Thai border.

''The Burmese Army chase us out. They want to destroy us; they want to kill us.''

Though he was too young to recall it, the family spent several months on the move, hiding in the jungle, witnessing sights of indescribable brutality, evading the Burmese soldiers. Finally, they arrived at Thim Him camp.

It was to be home for more than 10 years. Though his family continued to be harassed by the Burmese, the Thai authorities tried to help, allowing refugees to travel outside the camp at night to collect bamboo to build rudimentary homes.

He has some happy memories of his time in Thim Him: going to school, playing ball games with other boys, even drawing, though only ever with a pencil.

''But it was a hard life. Lots of people died of disease.''

When first his father then his mother died he, his sister and another half-brother were adopted by another family. Eventually, through an international refugee placement program scheme they came to Australia.

Bluey, who says he must wait until he is 18 to become an ''official Australian'', remembers the date, and the excitement he felt. ''When I see Sydney I am very happy. I am not scared any more.'' His drawing skills were soon discovered by the teachers at Fairfield High, who introduced him to Ian Hale, the artist-in-residence who runs the art program for the gifted and talented.

The current exhibition, at the Piccadilly Centre, Castlereagh Street, features many works by migrants who, like Bluey, have escaped strife-ravaged countries.

Some have painted scenes from their previous lives.

Others have plunged into the Australian landscape, with studies of the Blue Mountains, the South Coast, the Southern Highlands or, like Bluey, the quintessential outback.

Mr Hale says: ''He just loves Australia, loves the landscape, and is very appreciative of what the country has done for him. I think this is a way for him to say thank you.''
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