Omar Musa responds to being locked out of the ACT Book of the Year

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WE were surprised to learn yesterday that Queanbeyan’s Omar Musa had been denied entry to the ACT Book of the Year competition for having “not adequately displayed an ACT-based arts practice”.

I suspect very few authors on the shortlist will be as active in the ACT’s arts scene.

Omar has blogged a reply which bears repeating in part.

It’s pretty ridiculous that I even have to do this, but let me describe my connection to the Canberra/ACT arts scene. In the past ten years, I have performed countless poetry and hip hop shows in Canberra (whattup Transit Bar/La Di Da/Front Gallery/Phoenix Bar/National Library/National Gallery/ANU Bar/UC Refectory?), I won the Australian Poetry Slam representing the ACT, I have run workshops at numerous high schools and colleges. I launched “Here Come the Dogs” TWICE in Canberra because the city has been focal to my arts’ practice. Hell, a couple of years ago, I even advocated for the creation of a territory-wide ACT slam poetry competition for high school kids, which was subsequently funded by the ACT government (of which artsACT is an arm)! The Canberra arts scene, poetry scene, hip hop scene KNOW me, because I am a PART OF THEM.

This year alone, I was included in Geoff Page and Kit Kelen’s anthology of “Poetry from Canberra” and asked to launch the “Urban Suburban” exhibition of photography of Canberra and Queanbeyan. A few months ago, I worked with bullied youth at the Messenger’s Arts Program (run by Queanbeyan artist Mariana del Castillo) at Tuggeranong Arts Centre, and it was because I was a local artist that it was believed I would resonate with the kids. I also noticed that I was recently described on Tourism ACT’s website (Tourism ACT being another arm of the ACT government) as a “local artist.”

Yet all of these things combined, some of which have been quite public, do not “an ACT-based arts practice” make. It’s all very, very strange and narrow, and also hypocritical, since artsACT actually gives funding to artists from the “region”. How do I know this? Because they gave me some a few years ago.

[Photo from Archibald Prize finalist portrait of Omar by Kerry McInnis]

UPDATE: Via Twitter we learn Arts Minister Joy Burch has intervened and Omar will be allowed to re-submit his entry to make greater play of his local connection.

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  1. Queanbeyan resident – it sounds as though it’s at the discretion of the judging panel or the admins whether they admit him. Their decision. Omar has had heaps of funding and prizes etc – doesn’t need to whinge like this.

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