Connecting Communities – A sneak peek into the upcoming Curious About Culture Festival

A one-day festival celebrating and empowering Melbourne’s (Naarm’s) diverse community of female creatives, entrepreneurs and performers will be held this weekend.

Situated in the heart of the city, the Curious About Culture festival is a vibrant summer event showcasing an extensive line-up of 40+ women-led projects, businesses, activities and performances.

It also offers Melbournians a chance to enjoy live art, food, fashion, craft, innovation practices and wellness workshops from cultures and communities around the world, truly enjoying the city’s global appeal.

The festival will take place on March 21, at 524 Flinders Street from 10AM – 5PM.


The event is hosted by The Creative Co-operative and seeks to amplify the voices and stories of underrepresented local artists, creatives and business owners from emerging communities by showcasing them in the spotlight and providing a platform to share their talents, meet new people and unapologetically represent themselves.

“This is an opportunity to bring the Melbourne (Naarm) community together and drive community connection through accessible and sustainable practices over unique stories, goods and wares previously untold. As such, contribute to the City of Melbourne’s vision and goals,” says the festival website.

The Creative Co-operative and the Curious about Culture festival was founded by Priyanka Ashraf, an ex-lawyer turned technologist who also founded #sharetheplatform - a world first initiative that successfully catalysed a conversation about systemic racism in the Australian start-up ecosystem, for the first time in history.

SAARI Collective had the opportunity of speaking with two talented women who will be showcasing their works at the festival this Sunday.

Zara Shrestha

“I have always loved art and being creative and coming from such a beautiful multicultural background there was much to be inspired by!”

Zara Shrestha is a Melbourne born and based graphic designer and illustrator. She is the founder of Design Hoard (@designhoard), a small business where she works and offers clients and companies creative solutions to their graphic needs. 

She founded Design Hoard during the lockdown and enabled her to do what her day graphic designing job didn’t.

“I will admit prior to lockdown I was not fully focussed on my own freelance work, however, the extra time allowed me to take a step back and think about what I really love doing and what my day job didn’t allow was client interaction.”

She is driven by community empowerment and loves helping small local businesses elevate their brand, collaborate and create beautiful things together.

She commends The Creative Co-operative’s efforts of creating a platform for women of colour.

“The Creative CoOperative have provided almost everything we need to be able to sell our products in an affordable way which is so important for those just starting out (like me!).”

Zara is excited to be a part of the upcoming festival and feels the event will inspire several.

“The market is such a great place for us to all come together as a team, meet each other and be inspired to continue to show how talented we are,“ she says.

She extends a hand to all those who are starting out, like herself, and says “I have quickly learned it is not only about you and your craft but about lifting each other up and supporting your creative friends and small business owners around you”.

“When one of us is doing well, we are all winning - as South Asian women breaking into industries ensure[s] we pave the way for the person creating diversity wherever we can.”

Nadira De Silva

“Take that leap of faith and follow through! You’d rather do something you love by heeding the call, than be stagnant in a job that keeps you miserable.” 

Nadira De Silva is a yoga and meditation teacher and the founder of Anantaya Yoga and Wellness.

She started her service after experiencing her own healing journey as a “former corporate runaway” and is now passionate about the accessibility, inclusivity and diversity within wellness spaces.

“I think the saturation of the wellness industry favouring able-ism by focusing only on the physical practice is quite harmful when the benefits of mindfulness practices like yoga/meditation becomes watered down to simply exercise,” she says. 

Nadira found the practice of yoga empowered her to focus on self-improvement beyond the physical, helping her holistically align her with true self and values.

“Yoga started a soul-searching journey that helped me see that we each possess limitless potential that can be harnessed towards transformation. It was a tool to get to know who I was, beyond the layers of societal/cultural norms.”

“I am passionate about sharing these tools and practices where connection, well-being and freedom is encouraged through a community of like-minded individuals.

“Yoga is a practice for everyone and everybody, irrespective of any perceived differences such as gender, race, religion, socio-economic status or abilities.”

She is specialised in teaching vulnerable groups such youth with neuro-diverse conditions and those experiencing trauma and mental illness and says the positive feedbacks from her clients, who “wouldn’t typically be seen at a regular yoga studio”, as well as watching them thrive keeps her going.

Nadira applauds the opportunity the Curious About Culture festival is bringing to women of colour and is excited to connect with the community. 

“Rather than allowing celebrations like Harmony Day, International Women’s Day etc. to be tokenistic, self-organising [opportunities like the Curious about Culture festival] to ensure a path forward to provide support to each other as well as the wider community becomes imperative if we are to create sustainable social change,” she says. 

The Curious About Culture festival will also see the works of Daizy Maan, a young South Asian woman leader who was recently profiled by the SAARI Collective.

Tickets for the festival can be found here.

More information about the festival is available on their Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Pranjali Sehgal is a writer, public servant and member of SAARI's Editorial Team.