The Fox and the Freedom Fighters
Last night I saw this amazing piece of theatre at the Performance Space, now located at Carriage Works: –
It was a play written by Aunty Rhonda, who I’d met a few years ago when she was in the early stages of this project. Here’s some information about her
It was presented in a performance with her daughter Nadeena. I found this story about her:
It was a multidimensional multimedia presentation with story, life performance, film, singing, dancing, artworks, and politics, culture – truly holistic experience shared by these two remarkable women. Deeply moving and shocking, to see the injustice and the racism that has so perpetrated Australian society from the very beginning of its invasion and colonisation by the British.
It was the story of one of the major activists of the Tent Embassy – Land Rights Movement, the granting of citizenship to Aboriginal people and the development of the Aboriginal Arts industry that has so profoundly shifted perceptions of Aboriginal people both locally and globally. One only has to go to one of the premier museums in the world: the Museum of First Nations in Paris (See http://www.quaibranly.fr/en/) with its shops and office ceilings painted by Aboriginal artists, to see the recognition of the depth of this culture.
And yet, most Australians don’t even know the name of the people on whose country they are living. How can this be?
Aunty Rhonda came into my life when I organised a KIN workshop at the Chapel by the Sea in Bondi some 3 or so years ago now. KIN or the Koru International Network was a project initiated by a New Zealand academic Lewis Williams who was working at a university in Canada. She wanted to establish a dialogue between different indigenous groups. (See http://kinincommon.com)
In a number of subsequent dialogues with Aunty Rhonda, Nicola Lambert and myself, there was a sense of deepening my understanding of the situation of Aboriginal people in Australia today and then as these things go she disappeared again from my life. Until I saw a notice for her performance of the Chika Dixon play.
It was so wonderful to make this reconnection last night, both on a personal level and as a social ecologist and as a community theatre artist myself. To see the depth of story and revelation, the intimacy of this production, to learn more about one of the great Aboriginal activists and the movement he co-created, on so many levels this was a treat.
It was like we were invited into the living room of these two magical women to hear their stories and songs and see their family photos and movies. There was archival footage as well as contemporary footage. It was a whole new way of doing theatre. It was alive and inspiring and shocking and moving in so many ways. As the theatre academic and theorist Richard Schechner, who wrote Between Theatre and Anthropology (1985) showed the performance is like the tip of a cultural and creative iceberg. So many stories and people and places and events are brought together in the concentration of the performance of a play like this and then resonate forth in the conversations in after dinner cafes and restaurants, in people’s homes and in various media reviews.
This production will also resonate in a documentary film that is being made of the performances, with one of the documentary filmmakers Fabio Cavadini, having been involved in documenting the Tent Embassy process back in the early 70s. As he said in a brief conversation after the show, he came to Australia from Italy and knew nothing of Aboriginal people, until he discovered the Tent Embassy in Canberra and so he decided this needed to be filmed and so he became a filmmaker. I resonated with his story have come to Australia at the age of 5 and having 17 years of education in Sydney, including what were considered top education institutions and I too knew hardly anything and nothing positive before I went to La Perouse with a camera in 1971 and made a short poetic political documentary of life at the Mission there in those days.
There was here in this production an opportunity to also hear the women’s side of the story of the life Aboriginal people in Australia. A story that should put us all to shame, that one of the wealthiest countries in the world, per head of population, according to a recent study I found, can still have people who are the traditional owners of this land living in such poverty, injustice and deprivation