Amie Batalibasi is a force of nature: irrepressible, imaginative, accomplished, irreverent and funny. But don’t be fooled, this multi-skilled creative is a fearless experimenter who thrives on throwing herself in the deep end and doesn’t believe in giving up.
It's a sticky hot Saturday afternoon as Amie Batalibasi and I sit down to chat about her life as a documentary filmmaker / photographer / creative producer / community arts facilitator and founder of community arts portal Colour Box Studio.
She smiles often and has an infectious laugh, something she tells me is a Solomon Islander trait. Born in Australia with Solomon Island and Australian heritage, Amie is proud of her roots.
She's recently heard the term 'slasher' that she think perfectly describes people like her (no, not knife wielding maniacs) - but people who have multiple creative practices.
"It’s hard to tell people what you do, but I don’t have to reconcile it within myself because I do what I love, but it is hard to explain it to other people. But both my filmmaking and my community arts work are related because the main focus is community and culture.”
“I was about 18 when my dad gave me his old Minolta camera and that was the start of a life long passion.”
With such a rich and varied creative life, I couldn’t wait to find out how she got started.
It was the catalyst for an utterly creative and uncompromising life. She studied photography and then got into experimenting with film and video, and the chance to connect with people pulled her deeper into the documentary form.
“I think I went into video so I could talk to people. It gave me an opportunity to engage with an audience instead of just presenting to an audience.
I did three years of photography and never hung a photo on the wall. I don’t exist within the traditional white cube and it (video) allowed me to step out of that.
What excites me is to tell stories, stories that people might not have the opportunity to hear and to meet wonderful people, it’s such a privilege.”
Her mission is to share community stories through art and empower others.
She explains that the focus of a lot of her work is around human rights, cultural diversity and social justice.
“Within that comes the desire to try to create opportunities to empower others, especially women.
And I am fortunate to have been able to work with a lot of wonderful women and I think that by supporting & encouraging each other we empower each other.”
Another element to her practice is sharing her filmmaking and storytelling skills with community.
“It’s great to be able to facilitate storytelling so other people can tell their own stories.
It is a different kind of empowerment and teaching documentary to people in communities is an important part of my work.”
In late 2012 Amie founded Colour Box Studio.
With the help of a team of volunteers and friends, she renovated an old tattoo parlour in Nicholson Street, Footscray, turning it into a community arts space that hosted workshops, exhibitions, events and a very popular pop-up shop that stocked the art and designs of local makers.
It was about collaboration, raising the profile of local artists and making things happen.
“I am an artist, a creative person, I’ve been through the struggle and so I know what people need and they tell me what they need and I am able to listen to them – I hope – and I think we are just stronger together. It’s hard to do things on your own. Working as a team makes sense."
It was always going to be a temporary incarnation as the space had been earmarked for demolition as part of a redevelopment, but the twelve months they spent in the space had a transformative effect on the area and all involved.
“There was a creative swell and people coming together – not just at Colour Box but other spaces as well.
I think we were there as other things were happening - we were part of that groundswell and movement which is still going on now,”
At the end of 2013, it was time to move and Colour Box morphed into an online entity, broadening its reach to connect with an even wider audience, without losing its intent and purpose.
They continue to deliver innovative arts programs, creative workshops and events, support local artists and makers and much more.
Amie lives her life fearlessly and without compromise, qualities to be greatly admired.
“Sometimes I look back and I think why did I do that? I think I don’t have any fear. I’m not sure if I’m driven by this anger or this little tingling thing that has put fire in my belly and then I’m driven by that and forget about the fear and just do it.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I think in the case of Colour Box it did.”
As our interview comes to an end, Amie perfectly sums up what makes her tick and I can’t help but think that’s it's the best sort of advice for all of us, pursuing what we love and making it happen.
“Persistence. That’s it. Do it and persist and then do it more if you fail. I don’t believe in failure – maybe not failure, I don’t believe in giving up."
words jessica dean + pictures kim aleksandrowicz