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Navigating culture, without being stereotyped or pressured by society was the theme of an African Kings and Queens workshop held at Greater Shepparton Secondary College during the week. Facilitated by Mariam Koslay, in partnership with Networking African-Australians, the sessions were delivered in two parts for around forty male and female students from an African background. The workshops explored and discussed what it means to be an African man or woman in Australia today, including the narrative driven by the media and society in general, and how we can sometimes feel stuck between who we are versus who we are expected to be.

The African Kings and Queens workshops are a continuation of an independent mini-series developed by Mariam, which explores the lives of eight different black men as they discuss culture and identity alongside their loved ones. All men featured in the mini-series are based in Melbourne. Mariam said the idea came about during COVID-19 lockdowns, when she felt African Australian people were being adversely affected by the pandemic or misrepresented in media. “The documentary was about changing the narrative, through positive storytelling we wanted to give an authentic insight into what it means to be an African man or boy living in Australia and to share these real life experiences exploring all things from culture and identity to masculinity, relationships, fatherhood, business and failure,” she said.

Through speaking with many African men and boys living in Australia, Mariam said she quickly came to the realisation that what we often see or associate with African men is controlled by a US or UK-based narrative that can pigeon-hole black men into the categories of being a criminal, an entertainer or model or a rapper or musician. “It really is sub-conscious conditioning and it is not a complete, fair or unfiltered reflection of how African Australian mean are positively shaping their society,” she said. Mariam said through workshops such as African Queens, she was hoping to develop a similar documentary, and during the session held yesterday with GSSC female students, Mariam asked: “what does it mean to be an African woman living in Australia?”

The students spent some time discussing this as a group and reflected on both positive and negative experiences. Many of the students felt proud of their culture and identity and linked this to food, fashion, hair, skin colour and not being afraid to showcase their true selves. Some of the students also discussed some challenges faced living in a country that is not your own and trying to feel part of the community. The girls also reflected on the stereotype for African women of being “a housewife.”

Greater Shepparton Secondary College thanks Mariam for her time working with our students and to the Networking African-Australians group who continue to work closely with our College through a formal partnership that has provided many opportunities and positive outcomes for our students. Exploring and celebrating culture and diversity at GSSC is such an important part of our College life.

For more information about African Kings and Queens visit:
For more information about Networking African-Australians visit: