So much to celebrate – Arab film, Sydney sacred music and Aboriginal dance

Arab FF - When I saw you 2014Now in its 14th year, the annual Arab Film Festival screens at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, from Thursday, August 14 to Sunday, August 17, before touring to Melbourne and Canberra. When I Saw You, left, opens the festival on Thursday evening. The 2013 award winning film is set in 1967 in Jordan. After several years in a refugee camp, a Palestinian mother and son long for reunion with their family in the midst of war. In his quest to find his father, Tariq makes some surprising discoveries and finds hope in the changing spirit of the times.

The following night, Scheherazade’s Diary documents the process of a 10 month drama therapy and theatre project developed with women prisoners in Baabda Prison. Facilitated by Lebanese actress, director and drama therapist Zeina Daccache, the project required extraordinary tenacity and commitment. Some of this is recorded in a complementary film also directed by Zeina, Schererazade in Baabda, which Arab Film Festival screened a year ago at Riverside. Zeina was present to answer questions. The women inmates, described as “murderers of husbands, adulterers and drug felons”, reflect on their personal experiences of drugs. sexual abuse, forced marriage and domestic violence and reach for the opportunity to change their lives. In the tragi-comic documentary the women challenge societies that oppress women.

On a different note, The United is a film for those who love football and dream of a united Arab world. In this film, a legendary Egyptian football coach trains a team of pan-Arab misfits to compete against France. Sponsored by the Asia Cup 2015 and the Western Sydney Wanderers. It screens on Sunday 17 August, 5pm, Riverside Theatres.

Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra - 6 of 14 membersOn September 5, Riverside Theatres hosts the launch of the fourth Sydney Sacred Music Festival developed by Cultural Arts Collective, under the direction of Richard Petkovic. This year, they are taking a step further by establishing a non-profit organisation, Sacred Currents. It aims to steer the festival to international renown in the next few years with an innovative program of events throughout the year.

Richard says, “This year, two new cross cultural music performances at Parramatta and Campbelltown are taking on the challenge of working with the ‘moment’ to produce new Australian work, using different approaches. One showcasing established and international legends of world music and the other sharing the hidden musical talents of Western Sydney.

“At Parramatta, the debut performance of the Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra and their ‘sacred symphony’, the Three Sides of Love and Death, will use world instruments to bring a new life to the classical music form, while at Campbelltown, Simon Barker’s ‘Mujing’, inspired by the art of Chinese Bonsai, will craft and meld Buddhist chants and instrumentation into improvised song cycles.”

The photo above is of the first six members of the Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra, who have now expanded to 14. The Sydney Sacred Music Festival travels to Mosman, Blacktown, Sydney CBD, Campbelltown, Bondi, Parramatta, Blue Mountains and several places in between and ends on September 21.

Ce1-Wagana after Glasgow on NITV Newslebrating their recent successes at the Glasgow International Youth Dance Festival preceding the Commonwealth Games, are the Wagana Aboriginal Dancers. The senior members who travelled to Glasgow are pictured with younger members at Wentworth Falls – all glad to be back on Wiradjuri and Darug land in the Blue Mountains. They assembled for performance and conversation with NITV News earlier this month.

Director and choreographer Jo Clancy conducted 15 workshops for 400 young people from other Commonwealth countries. Wagana Dancers were thrilled to find keen international interest in their work. They felt very proud when some of the other dancers, like the English, expressed the wish that they could have the connection to culture that the Aboriginal dancers experienced.

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Three events celebrate Aboriginal culture and achievement

Only one of these events may have been planned for NAIDOC Week 2014, but three  certainly coincide to recognise Aboriginal culture and achievement.

1-Wagana - Bangalang - BMCC - 0614The first is the presentation of Bangalang, by five young members of Wagana Aboriginal Dancers, who depart for the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival, in Glasgow, on Friday, July 4. Their performance of Bangalang, a Wiradjuri word for autumn, was presented to an appreciative audience at Blue Mountains Cultural Centre last Sunday. Bangalang was choreographed by their teacher and mentor Jo Clancy, in collaboration with Becky Chatfield, with music and song by Jacinta Tobin.

Following their invitation to participate in the festival, Wagana members spent more than a year raising the $35,000 needed to deliver their team to Glasgow. In fact they exceeded their target by another $5000, which enabled them to fund beautiful costumes and props like the emu puppet heads seen in the photo. While each participating country is limited to a maximum seven minute performance, their days will be spent in workshops run by the other countries, with performances each evening. The Wagana dancers are thrilled with the global cultural experiences and networking opportunities offered by the festival.

1-The Life of Riley 0614Another event gaining attention in NAIDOC Week is the launch  of Christina Green’s book The Life of Riley. As a three year old child, Christina (then Riley) was taken from her Wiradjuri family into foster care. Following a series of horrendous experiences, she was then detained as an 12 year old, charged with her own neglect, in the notorious Parramatta Girls Home. From there she survived three periods of incarceration in the old Hay Gaol. In recent years, as survivors of the Parramatta Girls Home have come together to seek healing, she has worked with fellow Parragirl Bonney Djuric to ensure the future of the home and the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct as an international Site of Conscience.

The Life of Riley is Chris’s own life story pieced together during 25 years as she struggled to understand what had happened to her and why. Although a record of crushing privation and loss, it is also an extraordinary story of survival, spiritual strength and great wisdom. The Life of Riley, by Christina Green, $24.90, Paypal – email cchristinag@outlook.com. Leave a message including your name and postal address. Purchased books will be delivered in 5 – 7 days.

An alternative payment method is through direct deposit:
Westpac bank
Christina Green
Bsb – 732 183
Acc – 596 014
Please note when purchasing The Life of Riley to message Chris through Facebook with your name and address and the book will be in the mail with your receipt delivered within 5-7 days.

1-Brendan Penzer - Wirnda Barna ArtistsFrom mid-west WA’s Upper Murchison region comes news of the third event, Wirnda Barna Aboriginal artists and their exhibition Drawing a Line in the Sand, at Hazlehurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, Gymea, in Sydney’s southern suburbs. The link with western Sydney is the manager at Wirnda Barna Artists, Brendan Penzer. Brendan is a visual arts and social ecology graduate from University of Western Sydney, where he conducted much of his research. Drawing a Line in the Sand continues at Hazlehurst Gallery until July 8. It will be great to have more news of Brendan and Wirnda Barna artists.

Wagana Aboriginal Dancers leave soon for Glasgow

Wagana prepares for Glasgow in JulyOnly 5 weeks now until Wagana’s Youth Company leaves for the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in Glasgow. Wagana is thanking the Blue Mountains community for getting behind their fundraising efforts and invites everyone to a free showing of their work Bangalang on Sunday 29th June at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in Katoomba at 3pm. Choreographed by Jo Clancy in collaboration with Becky Chatfield with music and song by Jacinta Tobin, Bangalang will premiere at Tramway Arts Centre in Glasgow on Friday 11th July. — with Jess Oehm, Helen Lee, Nadia Martich, Niki Park, Jo Clancy and Michaela Jeffries.

Wagana books tickets to Glasgow!

Wagana Aboriginal DancersThey are on their way to Glasgow and the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in July!

Director of Wagana Aboriginal Dancers Jo Clancy reports that their 1920s fundraising night last Saturday “was our most successful fundraiser yet. We raised $2,300 towards the trip and are thrilled. We were also successful a few weeks ago with a $6,000 grant from the Layne Beachley Foundation.

“We are very close to our goal now and are booking our flights this Friday.”

The Wagana Aboriginal Dancers perform contemporary & traditional Aboriginal dances inspired by the Blue Mountains & Central NSW West country.

Young Aboriginal dancers on their way to Scotland

Jo in Swamp (2)Jo Clancy, seen here in Keep the Dragonflies Dancing, directs the emerging indigenous dance company Wagana Aboriginal Dancers based in the Blue Mountains. Wagana Aboriginal Youth Dancers are thrilled to be invited to perform at the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in Glasgow, Scotland, in July, 2014. A graduate of UWS Nepean Dance in the mid-90s, Jo was proud to report last November that they had already raised more than $20,000 of the $35,000 they need to take a small troupe to Scotland. They are working hard to raise the rest. Enquire about coming events or making a donation Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre.