Thursday, March 4, 2021

Porous borders

Highlights from Multicultural Arts Victoria’s Mapping Melbourne Festival in December 2017

Reading Time: 3 minutesLast year’s Mapping Melbourne festival offered variety in space, thought, and art forms. Notably, it allowed performers the space to present experimental work in intercultural fusion.

Serpent Dreaming Women

Conceptualised by Melbourne-based dancer and academic Dr Priya Srinivasan, this was an intense but meditative collaboration between Indigenous and Indian female artists.
Mapping Melbourne.Indian Link
Alongside Dr Srinivasan were Melbourne-based Carnatic singer and composer Uthra Vijay, world-renowned Bharatanatyam dancer Priyadarshini Govind, and three Gundijtmara women: creative cultural artist Vicki Couzens, storyteller and visual artist Gina Bundle and language activist/traditional Aboriginal artist/dancer Yaraan Bundle.
A site-specific piece that was episodic, loose, and also space-specific, taking place in various inside and outside spaces of the Bunjalika exhibition at Melbourne Museum, this was a new type of collaboration across Indian, Indian diasporic, and Indigenous Australian cultures.
Mapping Melbourne.Indian Link
Serpent Dreaming Women wove together the artists’ biographies, autobiographies, traditional stories and texts, across rooms and environments. It employed a variety of contemporary storytelling and dance choreographies, as well as traditional performance modes.
In a panel discussion afterwards, all the women spoke of the surprising connections they had discovered between Indigenous Australian and Indian cultures, in language, mythology and the impacts of colonisation.

Hyper Fragility

- Advertisement -

Shown into the “Hyper Fragility Boardroom”, we sat at a long table while Candy Bowers and Victoria Chiu took us on a journey of dark, intersectional feminist comedy and questioning of whiteness, colonialism, and nationalism.
Mapping Melbourne.Indian Link
Theatrical, with lightening costume changes, sharp choreography, and using sound, light, and audio-visuals, Hyper Fragility made me want to cry, relate-rage, and laugh uproariously at the same time.
I was especially moved by Bowers’ fragile, tortured rendering of ‘Jack the Colonial Boy’ in a white petticoat that showed her naked body underneath, shaking and panting, evoking the misery, helplessness and forced sexuality of the female colonised.
Mapping Melbourne.Indian Link
Chiu’s prowess as a choreographer matched Bowers’ comedic style perfectly, and the conclusion, with Bowers and Chiu cavorting gleefully on the table in wife-beaters, sunhats and ocker accents, shaking and throwing back beers, left us dazed, excited, with more questions than answers. Just as the artists intended.

NIDA Nights: Resonant Lines

An intimate showcase at The National Institute of Dramatic Arts’ studios in Southbank, two of ‘Resonant Lines’ performances were especially moving: ‘Tincture’ by Aarti Jadu and ‘Syllables of Ritual’ by Nithya Iyer, Luna Mrozik-Gawler & Devika Bilimoria.
Mapping Melbourne.Indian Link
Jadu’s ‘Tincture’ was a beautiful wash of invocation to daily sounds, combining Western harmonics and violin with a Hindu prayer to the goddess, layered over with the sound of tea-making and dishwashing. It felt like a complete world of sound, and was the kind of intercultural ‘fusion’ that needed no explanation or indeed showed any ‘seams’ between the different music forms.
Mapping Melbourne.Indian Link
‘Syllables of Ritual’ was a mesmerising movement and spoken word piece with a musical backdrop, exploring the connection, contradiction, and complications of cultural heritage and inherited forms of worship, and the performers’ contemporary longings for and rebellions against both. The spoken poetry was laden with rich images of past and present, while the repetitive, meditative steps were hypnotic. The performers’ interruptions of each other’s poetry with humorous, natural discussion, was an interesting way to combine performance and analysis within the same piece.
Photos by Damian W Vincenzi

- Advertisement -
Aparna Ananthuni
Aparna is an aspiring writer of historical fiction and fantasy for young adults and children. She also loves reading, drawing and Indian classical music, and often develops strange obsessions like typewriter-collecting.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...

Latest News

sexual assault survivor, sexual assault counsellor, sexual assault victim

I’m a sexual assault counsellor. Here’s why it’s so hard for...

  As a senior sexual assault counsellor working with Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, I often sit across from people on the worst day of...
dee domingo and raj shekhawat

A tinnitus update on World Hearing Day

  World Hearing Day is celebrated on 3 March to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness along with promoting ear care. I spoke to...

Book Review: ‘Ritu weds Chandni’ by Ameya Narvankar

  "But what is wrong with that? Why shouldn't she marry Chandni didi?," asks Ayesha, the young protagonist in Ameya Narvankar's Ritu weds Chandni. The innocent...
axar patel indian cricket player

IND v ENG: A historic Test… for all the wrong reasons

  The only bigger joke than the wicket prepared for the 3rd cricket Test between England and India at Ahmedabad’s Motera Stadium, was the renaming...
Queer support group Trikone Australia’s Alan Maurice, Kunal Mirchandani and Ravin chat with Bageshri Savyasachi

South Asians talking about Mardi Gras

  Pride week has already begun in Australia! Since Sydney's fabulous Mardi Gras parade is coming up this weekend, I had a chat with members...