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5 minutes with Sydney Lunar Festival curator

Valerie Khoo’s picks of the Year of the Pig festivities.

Valerie Khoo crop

As an artist, writer and founder of the Australian Writers’ Centre, Ms Khoo has already helped bring a creative spark to the next generation of young Sydneysiders. Now she’s set to inspire the 1.4 million visitors who will join the Lunar New Year celebrations from 1 to 10 February.

Why were you selected as curator of the Sydney Lunar Festival?

I have a passion for the way art can engage people and bring together the community, particularly in a celebration like this. As a writer, I'm committed to adding an extra layer of storytelling to the festival as well, so that the voices of Asian-Australians – and all those who celebrate Lunar New Year – can come to the fore.

What inspires you?

I'm inspired by people who have big dreams and who then do what it takes to turn them into reality. Whether you're an artist creating a statement with your artwork, or a migrant dreaming of a better life for your family, or an everyday Australian who contributes to the community. These are the journeys and stories that light me up and inspire me.

Why were you interested in curating the festival?

I truly believe Sydney is the best city in the world and I wanted to contribute to its cultural fabric in some small way. Lunar New Year is an essential part of my Asian heritage. I wanted to curate a festival that would not only celebrate this important date on the calendar but to feature an inclusive and diverse range of programs, events and art installations.

I’m interested in highlighting the unique aspects of the Asian-Australian experience, in showcasing how much diversity and richness can be found in what’s often considered a single ethnic group. It's a group that's actually made up of so many different cultures – and to be able to highlight this through Sydney Lunar Festival is wonderful.

The incredible collection of Lunar Lanterns at Circular Quay is representative of Australians in so many ways – different people with so many different stories.

I was 4 when my parents migrated to Sydney from Singapore, and my personal possession was a little red Chinese lantern that looked absolutely beautiful with a candle glowing in it. I always think of this when I look at the City of Sydney’s giant lanterns around Circular Quay and my heart just warms.

What your top 3 picks for Sydney Lunar Festival?

The dragon boat races, the fabulous night-time food events at Sydney Fish Market, and the Lunar Lanterns exhibition.

Published 1 February 2019