By Brendan Rees
A dedication to Middle Eastern and Islamic art and culture has earned a well-respected artist a City of Casey honour.
Dena Aljamal was announced as the winner of this year’s Lindsay King Arts Award during the Mayoral Arts Dinner which was held at the City of Casey Civic Centre on Friday 25 August.
The youngest-ever nominee for the award, Tahlia Williams, was also recognised with a special commendation.
The Lindsay King Arts Award is the City of Casey’s most prestigious award for the arts and recognises people whose initiatives have made a significant contribution to the arts in Casey.
Mrs Aljamal said she was proud to receive the award.
“The way I feel towards the Lindsay King Arts Award is a combination of some special moments in life that are unforgettable, like celebrating a wedding day, witnessing the birth of the first baby, graduating from high school and university. I feel that I am reborn again as an artist.”
Mrs Aljamal thanked members of the community for their support and dedicated the award to her family and late father.
“I feel that I am today an Australian woman with Palestinian identity and my Islamic beliefs make me feel proud of being among you all and proud of the diversity and harmony in this land.
“I am really proud about introducing the Islamic art at Australian community. I have always contributed to multicultural societies. I also appreciate everyone who nominated me and felt I deserve it.”
Mrs Aljamal, a pharmacist, also started her own interior design and decoration business, Dena Design and Decoration.
“Art is sensational and I am grateful that God has given me a grace that makes me feel distinguished. I am honoured to be a role model for my three kids, Ali, Nada and Omar.
“It’s a real example of never giving up and following your passion anywhere at any age. I appreciate my husband’s support, Dr Hani Aljamal, an emergency consultant at Casey Hospital,” she said.
Mrs Aljamal said she also appreciated that the City of Casey acknowledged the volunteer work of Al-Emaan Women’s Organisation.
Mayor Sam Aziz thanked each of the nominees for their influence on the arts in Casey.
“Mrs Aljamal was nominated three times for her work with the Al-Emaan Women’s Organisation,” Cr Aziz said.
“Through her artistic practice, she has brought together women from different ethnic backgrounds and was recently responsible for the design of the Al-Emaan plaque for the Wall of Global Friendships.”
River Gum Ward councillor Wayne Smith, who spoke on behalf of Cr Aziz at the Mayoral Arts Dinner, said Ms Aljamal was an active member of the community and a member of Casey’s Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee.
“Ms Aljamal’s visual artworks and interior decorating skills continue to provide Casey residents with the opportunity to experience Middle Eastern and Islamic art and culture,” Mr Smith said.
Cr Aziz also congratulated the other finalists, including Tahlia, on her significant achievement.
“At just 11 years old, Tahlia is the youngest ever nominee for the Lindsay King Arts Award and has been commended for her work in performing arts,” he said.
“Tahlia performed the role of Amanda Thripp in the professional production of Matilda through its entire season at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne.
“Tahlia was nominated for the inspiration she provides at her school, Casey Grammar, and has been offered the main role in the coming secondary school production, despite still being in primary school,” Cr Aziz said.
Local artists are set to get further opportunities in the arts as the council prepares for the opening of Bunjil Place with a weekend of celebrations on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 October.