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Turning tragedy into inspiration for a more inclusive future

14 March 20240 comments

It is with determination and empathy that Sara Nejad epitomises the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day: Inspiring Inclusion.

The beloved teacher at both the University of Canberra and TAFE Queensland draws upon a wealth of experiences from the elation of artistic achievement to the agony of personal tragedy.

Ms Nejad said: “As a teacher, I do my best for the students.”

“They come with different needs.”

“As a consequence, we need to provide individual learning – it’s exhausting,” said Ms Nejad.

When she is not at either institution, Ms Nejad cares for her five-year-old daughter and husband.

Ms Nejad moved with him from their home in Iran to the United States in 2010, where she was a student in the Master of Fine Arts program in Boston’s prestigious School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

After moving to Australia in 2012, she undertook her own Doctor of Visual Arts at Griffith University.

Regrettably in 2019, shortly after celebrating this academic achievement, her husband experienced a catastrophic brain haemorrhage.

Ms Nejad said: “He used to be my rock, he took care of everything… and then – tragedy.”

“Somehow, I have to look after my daughter, to work – to pay the mortgage.”

“I have to be a mother, a wife, and a daughter to his parents,” said Ms Nejad.

Four years after the accident which forged her steely will to survive, she designed a triptych of artworks titled ‘Recurrence and Emergence’.

Reflecting a myriad of aspects of her life are symbols depicted in mandalas, including a brain, a child in utero, and cut hair.

The latter illustrated the Persian practice of Gisuborān; in her homeland of Iran, women cut their hair in mourning.

Ms Nejad said, “Mandalas represent creative energy forces of unlimited potential…”

“The revolving mandalas in these works suggest a way toward[s] liberation, a form of finding order within chaos,” said Ms Nejad.

Since graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Art in 2006 from the University of Tehran, she has exhibited across the world.

The galleries to have hosted her solo shows include: Seyhoun Art Gallery (Tehran) and Gallery 360 (Boston), and Logan Art Gallery.

She has also contributed to group exhibitions at: Arya Art Gallery (Teran), Bruecke Gallery (Frankfurt), Fireworks Gallery (Brisbane), Gladstone Regional Art Gallery, the State Library of Queensland (Brisbane).

Between 6 and 16 March 2024, Ms Nejad will feature in an art exhibition at Woolloongabba Art Gallery.

Her Work investigates the evolving roles of women in contemporary Australian society, and the agency they find in them.

Through her artworks, Ms Nejad invites audiences to “…pause and hover in this space of chaos to find beauty and order”.

The sentiments these compositions convey are likely to offer solace to visitors, irrespective of the gender they identify.

The other artists include Melina Celik, Natasha Narain and Jeanette Stok.

Further information about the exhibition may be found at