Sam COOKs KISSmyBLAKartsCOLUMN – June 2006
A BLAKfullas BLAKarts UK TRAVEL DIARY
As we speak, I’m riding the train back to London from Newcastle-Gateshead, with an intermittent WIFI connection that seems to drop out every time we go through a tunnel…BUT…I’m far from complaining as I’m heading home and really I’m SOOOO excited I’m pinching myself at a mission accomplished, mission exceeded and that I’m here at all!!! Over the 19 days this blakfulla has spent abroad, I’ve managed to make history, sell out BLAKSTAGEtheatre shows and participate in a world summit on arts and culture that provided a banquet of food for thought. Oh and in between all this, this blakfulla managed to negotiate her way on the London Underground like a local and at times confront the internal struggle of setting foot on the motherland of the colony for the first time.
I’ve also taken the time to quiz the English as to what their general thoughts are of Australia AND far from my amazement, but actually confirming what I suspected all along, is that the Motherland of the Colony DON’T THINK about Australia!!! Don’t give a rats @zz about Australia and can’t understand for the life of them why we are still pledging allegiance to the Monarchy. Note: to Johnny H. – Get over the Colonial boot licking and don’t stack the next republican debate!! Actually there were more gripes noted, which not only fell onto the competitiveness of the World Cup but were mostly geared towards the mass influx of Australian Diaspora - which in my mind is largely English Diaspora returned home after a coupla generations, but as it seems, its a generation or so too late.
So what of the BLAKistory made? Well think one of Europe’s biggest historical icon’s meets living Aboriginal culture and you arrive at two sold out performances of the BARDI DANCERS at Stonehenge. This was historical, spiritual, political, significant and nearly overlooked by Australian media who showed a large disinterest in the occurrence – I mean lawd forbid a good news blak story right!!! That was until the rest of the world invariably shamed them up by seeing the worth in covering such a phenomenal and visually spectacular performance and the print media finally succumbed. The exception to this had to be Aunty ABC who showed how their new funding increase could be well spent.
Added to this we had a very successful UK premiere of the Multi-Award winning production WINDMILL BABY and a family theatre show DJITTY DJITTY FLIES NORTH, which went onto the Chelsea Festival. This was sponsored and attended by the UK Celebrity A-list and their families, including ex-pat Elle McPherson and sons [Yeaaahhh Blakfullas were schmoosing, big noting OH and performing!!].
These performances occurred as part of the Salisbury International arts festival [SIAF] Aboriginal Showcase, an initiative I had been working alongside the SIAF festival director for over two years to ensure that Western Australian Indigenous arts were heavily represented. Again that was a first and a coup for the Indigenous Western Australian arts movement who are more often than not the first casualty of the non-transparent, non-democratic processes that exist in the East.
This was glaringly obvious by the time I headed North to Newcastle-Gateshead UK, participating in the World Summit on Arts and Culture. Seems that the conference information didn’t get past OZCO, DCITA and a coupla random Arts Councils over East. I was there only because I stumbled on it during a google and pestered the organiser to let me tell our story. Also turns out I was the only non-bureaucrat Aussie in the joint which scared the bejeezuz outta me given there was a significant amount of Arts and Culture Policy talk going on without the input from the arts and cultural sector. Afterall, Its OUR industry and OUR future!!!
There was a clear dialogue and celebration of diversity at this forum, which to be honest disheartened me because Australia is so far away from even understanding its diversity. I mean we haven’t even left the starting block! How can Australia celebrate diversity when it cannot acknowledge its Indigenous nations, when we still have white companies producing work with “Aboriginal themes” and trying to pass them off as authentic? When our diverse multi-cultural and ethnic communities are even less visible than the Indigenous arts, unless they are presented and packaged as a traditional ethnic experience or “world music” moment – all surface in a surface laden country that doesn’t have a clue what its national identity is. So in this respect, globally we are off the radar.
All that aside I was glad to have stumbled upon such a phenomenal opportunity to contribute to the global think tank on the arts see where the rest of the world is headed and to be able to contribute more than just the Indigenous position, which is a rare occurrence for any Indigenous person. It was also an amazing networking opportunity that saw me connect globally with enormous potential for future collaborations and dialogues with other nations and beyond – From Dubai to Nigeria, Amsterdam to Japan. Information I’m happy to share. [[[I’m only an Email away]]]
OK nearly time to get off this train, hit the underground and head for the plane. See ya when I get Blak!!!