Seating and a light box in a public space decorated with colourful paintings of people

Too Much Drama in Dandenong's Settlers Square

Seating and a light box in a public space decorated with colourful paintings of people

The newest public art in Dandenong’s Settlers Square foreshadows the next exhibition at Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre.

Created by Melbourne based Ethiopian-Norwegian artist Olana Janfa, Too Much Drama combines the artist’s trademark wry political commentary and light-hearted humour. Olana’s unique style is inspired by the traditional Ethiopian Orthodox art of his childhood and charts the realities and ironies of contemporary immigrant life, raising the question: what makes us call a place home?

While the gallery exhibition does not open until July, Olana has already found a street canvas in Dandenong’s Settlers Square, transforming the space with his new work titled Harmony, which sees a series of charismatic characters appearing in the artist’s signature bold palette.

Extending across the square’s seating, electricity boxes and light pole, the artwork has re-invigorated the space, transforming it into an active public meeting and event space for all users, creating a vibrant, attractive and safe link through this busy precinct. The artwork explores themes of inclusivity and harmony with its use of colour, bold illustration and patterns, inviting passers-by to pause, observe and stay.

A self-taught artist who first started painting in 2018, Olana says he uses art to connect to his culture and communicate his ideas and experiences. “Painting is how I express my identity and what’s important to me, including the things I find funny,” he explained.

Olana Janfa: Too Much Drama is the 2024 iteration of HOME, Greater Dandenong Council’s longstanding program of exhibitions featuring artists from a refugee and asylum seeker background. It will be exhibited at the Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre from 2 July to 6 September with a range of public programs starting from June.

The official opening event for Olana Janfa: Too Much Drama will take place on Saturday 29 June, from 6pm-10pm, commencing at Settlers Square before moving across to Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre.

Visit the HOME webpage to find out more