Not just one, but two professional artistic companies spawned by western Sydney experience are taking a great leap forward after 10 years of development. The first is CuriousWorks and the second is Sport for Jove.
In a cavernous space at Carriageworks in Redfern, CuriousWorks launched the first stage of its ambitious story telling project
Colony, on Tuesday, March 8, with a live audiovisual concert. Artistic director, multimedia artist and musician, S Shakthidharan supported the haunting vocals of fellow artist Aimee Falzon as they introduced Colony. “You can stand on a street corner in western Sydney and see the whole world go by,” Shakti said . This experience was the starting point for an epic narrative Shakti was given the chance to develop when he became artistic associate at Carriageworks in 2013. Colony will gather stories from world wide, beginning with the links across generations of people who have migrated to western Sydney. Much of the communication will be through image, movement and sound to transcend the barriers of language. The project will grow during the next few years as a response to mass migrations occurring throughout the world and an exploration of ways to synthesise traditional wisdom with contemporary culture. Western Sydney is also home to a significant population of indigenous Australians and their stories will form a vital component of the whole project.
Shakti, right has spent the last decade since graduation assembling a team of talented people who share his philosophy and commitment to provide communities with the tools to tell their own stories “powerfully and sustainably”. It is a commitment that has taken them to work with marginalised communities north of Melbourne, in western Sydney and in remote Western Australia. Individually and collectively they work with professional artists in local and international settings, challenging and extending their own skills and work. Simultaneously, they work respectfully with community groups over long periods of time until they are sufficiently trained and equipped to operate independently to produce and tell their own stories and generate their own financial support.. CuriousWorks combines art, education and technology to deliver communities the ability to create unique, acclaimed artistic product that celebrates their cultures.
Their goals seem to correspond with the opinion of Aboriginal lawyer, academic, writer and filmmaker Larissa Behrendt in her new book Finding Eliza – Power and Colonial Storytelling – “History, then, is no longer just one romanticised story – it becomes a series of competing narratives, brought to life by different groups whose experiences are diverse and often challenge the dominant story that a country seeks to tell itself about its history.”
In the course of their community work in western Sydney in the past few years CuriousWorks has developed a team of young creatives, whose interest and commitment has turned them into leaders training and supporting the next round of story tellers. Among them is Guido Gonzales, who co-directed the film Riz, which had its world premiere at last year’s Sydney Film Festival.
Shakti’s background is Hindu and for him there is a natural empathy with the spiritual world of Aboriginal or First Nations people. Among CuriousWorks’ current projects is Connecting to Country – a five-year collaboration established between CuriousWorks and Moogahlin Performing Arts guided by esteemed elders and community partnerships, such as FUNPARK based in Bidwill and the Mt Druitt Reconciliation Group. Beginning in January, they worked on their first filmmaking project, above. Next month, young people will take part in an 80km walk, from the lower Blue Mountains to Blacktown, known as NgAl Lo Wah Murrytula (Darug for ‘together we share and enjoy’). The walk has been initiated by elders Uncle Wes Marne (93 years old) and Aunty Edna Watson (75) as a means of sharing their historical, environmental and cultural knowledge of the western Sydney landscape.
The Colony “universe” is being created over eight days, from 8-15 March 2016, and begins with the epic themes of destruction and creation. The first three chapters of the first story – When The Tide Comes In – were shown at the launch, with more to be released during the current eight days. In an atmosphere of menace and apprehension, we find ourselves in a post climate change Sydney of the 22nd century. A young woman must carry out an unusual mission in order to learn the truth of her family history. As a result, the story will move to and fro between the future and precolonial times. It is a multifaceted project with global reach combining work to be created along the way while drawing together many components of stories already produced. There will be live performances at intervals in sites across western Sydney, Australia and internationally. Click here and stay tuned.
Although very different in orientation, award winning company Sport for Jove also emerged from the diverse communities of western Sydney almost 10 years ago. Sport for Jove is now expanding into regional NSW. Their new Shakespeare Carnival is a NSW state-wide event that encourages students to get up and get active creating their own theatrical worlds by designing sets and costumes, composing music, choreographing dances and acting scenes that are inspired by the work of William Shakespeare.
The Shakespeare Carnival, they say, is a great opportunity for students to challenge themselves, learn new ideas, gain confidence and social skills, and improve literacy as they bring Shakespeare’s inspiring characters to life. The annual event is open to all NSW high school students, and participating schools will be aided and supported by Sport For Jove to hold their own Shakespeare Carnival. Schools will then select representatives to join other schools’ selected students at a Regional Carnival, which will lead into
a State Carnival, to be held at the Seymour Centre in Sydney in June 2016, where the top
performers will be offered opportunities to develop their knowledge of Shakespeare and theatre skills working alongside trained professional theatre makers and compete for a range of prizes.
The Shakespeare Carnival is a continuation of Sport For Jove’s education program. Click here for more information.