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Meet the inspiring young Australians behind the Converse ‘Celebrate Roots’ campaign

WORDS BY ROSANNA WATTS

When creativity meets intent.

Converse has collaborated with three of its Aussie All Star Team members in its latest campaign, Celebrate Roots. A celebration of culture and identity, the campaign features the work of three local creatives: Aasha Nimo, Fern Ari and Crystal Russel. Through Aasha’s family photo, Fern’s Thai mat-inspired rug and Crystal’s self-portraits, the idea of honouring personal roots comes to life. 

The Converse All Star Team is a global, grassroots community of 3,000 (and counting) emerging leaders from various fields. Through the All Star Team initiative, Converse aims to create a two-way line of communication with its wearers and uplift young voices. Below, hear what Aasha, Fern and Crystal had to say about their pieces and their evolving relationships with their cultural roots. 

Aasha Nimo

Photographer Aasha Nimo says this shoot was inspired by her late nana. The photo captures Aasha’s aunties wearing her nana’s Tongan mats and jewellery. “I shot it in my grandpa’s backyard, under his favourite orange trees, using a $50 film camera I bought years ago,” she says. 

Aasha’s mother is part Cook Island and part European, while her dad is Tongan-German. Aasha is proud of her diversity and the way it has allowed her to build an affinity with her nana. “This portrait honours nana who was not of one culture either like myself,” she explains.

Taking part in the Celebrate Roots campaign helped Aasha realise that, for her, photography should be about more than capturing what’s trending. “There’s a huge range of people, places and things to shoot that aren’t necessarily popular on social media,” says Aasha. “That’s where the magic is!”

@glittergirlfilmclub

Fern Ari

Melbourne-based Thai photographer Fern Ari drew inspiration from the patterns used in a Thai style mat called seu-kok, or เสื่อกก, to create this hand-tufted rug. 

Fern found making this rug was both a way to celebrate and reconnect with her roots. “Throughout this lockdown, I’ve developed a yearning for Thailand because it’s probably been the longest I’ve been away from home,” she says.  

The blend of Western and Thai styles resembles Fern’s journey with her identity. “This piece portrays who I am – someone who has developed a familiarity with Melbourne/Western culture… but still has [their] roots tied with Thailand.”

Photos by @chblog

@Fern.Ari

Crystal Russell

Rwandan-Australian photographer, writer and dancer Crystal Russell shot these self-portraits and accompanied them with a written piece. 

In the photos and her written word, Crystal honours her journey towards embracing her natural hair. “[In the written piece] I express a huge pivotal transformation in my identity,” says Crystal. “It was definitely a cathartic and empowering process.”  

Crystal highlights the significance of loving herself in the face of damaging societal expectations. “Loving my hair holds the weight of unravelling internalised racism and European beauty standards,” she writes.

Though personal, Crystal’s works form part of a broader and important shift happening today. “Celebrating my roots will always be about loving myself while holding compassion for how my experiences have been shaped by history.” 

@_crystalrussell

Through its All Stars initiative, Converse continues to uplift and mentor today’s young creatives. You can learn more about the program and hear from some of the other All Stars here

converse.com.au

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