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Converse asked young people across the country to show off their true colours, here’s what happened

WORDS BY TIFFANY FORBES

Small strides to make big impacts.

If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll recall that our resident footwear fave, Converse, is not just in the business of making shoes. The brand has also been a powerful force for pushing boundaries and encouraging change-making across the globe.

The latest project? A public art initiative entitled True Colours, where Converse has passed its mic over to a talented team of youth artists and activists across Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland, allowing them to collaborate on three public mural designs based on the topics most meaningful to them.

This initiative follows in the footsteps of the brand’s broader scale City Forest mural campaign introduced in 2020 to counter air pollution, and uses the same photocatalytic paint designed to absorb harmful pollutants and purify the air, which is always a win-win in my books.

Each mural design is a marriage of the artist’s creative style and the activist’s passion (expressing both of their true colours, if you will) exploring important themes including one’s experiences as a young Indigenous female, protecting trans-youth and driving awareness about invisible disabilities.

Over the course of the last week, I had the pleasure of chatting to a couple of the artists and activists to find out the origins behind their respective masterpieces and what it means to be able to share their unique message on such a public scale.

Keira Allen – Experiences as a young Indigenous female

Having felt ashamed of her Indigenous identity for many years, Keira’s mural – located in the heart of Sydney’s CBD near Redfern station – is an ode to anyone who needs to be reminded that being true to yourself and accepting who you are is the most important lesson of all.

Characterised by earthy tones that speak to Keira’s Indigenous roots and a human-like figure that adorns the text ‘Speak Your Truth,’ the mural is unlikely to go unnoticed, and for good reason.

“[For this design] I took inspiration from my personal life. Basically, there was a situation where I had spoke my truth and someone didn’t react very well about it, and that’s when I was like ‘Oh my god, I’m just going to write “Speak Your Truth”’ because it makes so much sense considering that’s the theme of my life at the moment.

“Even thinking about [the phrase] now, it’s so transferable to everyone’s lives, especially women and people of minorities. We often feel the need to not speak up because it will make someone else uncomfortable, that’s why I want to get this message out, to change that.”

Having completed the entire mural in a matter of two days, I asked Keira how surreal it must have felt to see her work go from a simple idea in her mind to a full-scale mural, to which she laughed.

“Yeah, I didn’t know how to feel. There’s such power and influence in being able to create something so big. All I wish for and pray for is that someone walks past and reads it and is like ‘Oh shit, I need to go break up with my boyfriend’ or ‘I need to tell people to stop making me drink on the weekends’.”

Daya Czepanski – Protecting trans youth

 As a trans non-binary artist and actor, activist Daya worked with artist Tim to create a mural – located on High Street in Northcote, Melbourne – with the primary aim to shift the (at times) negative stereotypes associated with being trans.

“I feel like so much of the narrative around trans youth and trans people, in general, is about how difficult it can be to be trans. People talk about the difficulties that come with transitioning and the social persecution you might face. So, with this mural, I wanted to put up a joyous picture. I want it to be something – trans or not – anyone can look at and go ‘Oh my gosh, there’s so much hope for trans-youth across Australia’.”

And that’s exactly what they did. Characterised by an actual figure of Daya and a variety of other Australian trans figures from different walks of life (who are all named on there), the mural depicts real people and real members of the community who have been through similar experiences, with the aim of igniting hope for others in the midst of their own trans journeys.

Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho – Invisible disabilities

The final mural – located in Khyber pass in Newmarket, Auckland – is the brainchild of artist and activist duo Huriana and Becki and brings to light the often undiscussed issue of invisible disabilities. 

“I think a lot of people make assumptions about people’s wellbeing and health a lot of the time without knowing their full story and I don’t really think that’s fair. So, this mural focuses on invisible disabilities and in particular, endometriosis, because Becki has endometriosis,” Huriana said.

The design is characterised by a figure of Becki (based on a self-portrait that Becki took) alongside a lot of pill bottles and text that reads ‘Not all disabilities are visible’. This message hopes to urge people to consider that what you see on the surface isn’t always an accurate depiction of what someone is going through.

[Becki and I] work in very different fields and this is not a subject matter that I’m super familiar with, so in that regard it’s been great to learn from Becki about something that does affect many people that I care about,” Huriana explained.

Much like the other all-stars, both Becki and Huriana completed their mural over the course of two days, so when they finally stepped back to take it all in, it was a surreal experience.

“I’m a digital artist mainly, so I don’t get to see the physical, tangible results of my work very often, so it was quite rewarding,” Huriana laughed.

You can learn more about Converse’s new True Colours project here.

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