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Here We Are Again!

Here We Are Again!
ArtsLab Festival
Creative Director: Natalie Rose
107 Projects, Redfern
November 23-27, 2022

Shopfront Arts Co-op offers emerging artists the valuable opportunity to work with a mentor and the gift of having their work exhibited or staged at an ArtsLab festival. This year’s ArtsLab entitled Here We Go Again! gives voice to culturally diverse writers and visual artists featuring three works, two short and contrasting theatre performances, a rich photographic portraiture exhibition and companion documentary, each honestly and passionately exploring the confusion of multi-cultural expectations.

The moving Dalo Chips and Imli Chutney, written by Varuna Naicker (mentor, Bina Bhattacharya), offers an insight into the complexities of the Fiji-Indian migrant culture through the eyes of three generations of women. In this way, the audience are gradually introduced to the history of Fiji-Indians, a group they might not have much knowledge of, while given insight into the different problems faced by each generation within not only their adopted land but also within the Fiji-Indian cultural community.

Initially, tension is provoked when the liberated and passionate Piyal (a very talented Madhullikan Singh) asks to learn about traditional Fiji-Indian culture from Amma (a lovely Veena Sudarshan), her grandmother who has remained culturally invested. Her divorced mother Kavita (a convincing Karina Bracken), who has bitterly rejected both cultural ways and tight-knit cultural group, is angered as she has protected Piyal from the excessive interference she resented while growing up. Piyal, however, has further revelations that threaten to break up the family, and which cast a shadow across her own hopes of inclusion so delicately expressed through the almost living presence of a traditional dress.

The visual exhibition entitled Whispers and Tea created by Saarah Hanif and Sivani Yaddanapudi (mentor, Paschal Daantos Berry) also reflects the complexity of finding a balance within two value-different cultural worlds. Hanif’s photographs express her passionate belief in the right of the young of South Asian heritage who also identify as LGBTIQ+ to a shared space in which they can feel safe to express themselves. Consequently, her richly coloured portraits are celebratory of their subject, a diffused golden light highlighting their value as individuals to the viewer.

After looking at the portraits it is essential to watch Yaddanapudi’s documentary which gives Hanif’s subjects – Kai Dikhush Kaur, Dileepa Rathakirthi, Dilasha Prasad and Bhavani Balasubramania – the opportunity to express their feelings about who they are or might be. Their honesty is impressive, and their perspectives balanced – although they have found it difficult to find a balance in their lives between their authentic self and traditional cultural expectations.

The third offering, a monologue with the intriguing title Unkissed, gives some of the audience the opportunity to feel the pain of exclusion. As Sarah Carroll (mentor, Yve Blake) flits with engaging cheekiness from one young adult cultural reference to another some are left gasping

but entertained nevertheless. Who knew that the state of being unkissed was even a thing?  Who knew that Google had such helpful advice about how to seize the moment and get that first kiss? Who knew a balloon could help a wanna-be-kissed get in necessary practice. Who knew that cold cooked vermicelli could be weaponised? It is true that the theatre is educational.

Particularly memorable moments from Here We Are Again! were the strikingly beautiful retelling of the Rama and Sita story in dance by Madhullikan Singh and a large, gold-framed photographic portrait of the charismatic Dilasha Prasad. Thank you Natalie Rose and team, Valentina Corona, Lily Hayman, Tyler Fitzpatrick and Justin Phan, and we look forward to the next ArtsLab presentation in March next year.

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