It was with excitement that I was back on Turrabal, Jaggera and Yugerra Lands for APAM – Australian Performing Arts Market – the internationally targeted industry event and this country’s premiere biennial arts festival. APAM pushing the dialogues, the coming-togetherness and reciprocity for local, national and our international counterparts.
This was a first for myself. I had studied the program with intent weeks beforehand– booking and signing on for the abundant showcases, pitches, functions and exchanges.
All of these plans were upended after seeing my first few showcases, realising the clashes with performance times, post-performance talks, and the simple fact I wanted to meet mob from the Global First Nations Exchange and BlakDance Presenter Series, I quickly had to change my APAM game-plan.
So, it was with a more relaxed, go-with-the-flow attitude that I started to enjoy, absorb and realise the rewards of these professional and personal exchanges; and these ‘meetings’ were not necessarily at, say, a showcase but on the street or in the lobby of a shared hotel with an international delegate. Looking down and squinting to read your new friend’s name, introduce yourself and what we are both doing here!
With over 145 performances, I’d like to share two highlights of the whole APAM experience that struck a chord and have remained with me since returning.
The first was one of the four keynote addresses at the ‘Welcoming Words’ – Moving Forward, Moving On, Questioning Convention, Breaking The Glass on Monday 19th February in the afternoon. The speech was from a fulla from the Narangga (Yorke Peninsula) and the Kaurna (Adelaide Plains) Nations of South Australia. In his speech, Jacob Boehme masterfully First Nations-plained the state of the nation in the arts sector for First Nations People here in Australia but just not here, everywhere, everywhere there has been colonisation. Jacob calmly held a mirror up to the theatre and performative arts sector to reveal a Dorian Grey type situ that, well bluntly, hasn’t been addressed, toward First Nations – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders cultural and creative stories. You can read his speech via the link from our friend at BlakDance at the bottom of this page. J
The second highlight I would like to share with you is actually an afternoon of mini-performances in the form of pitches. Fifteen pitches, in fact, delivered in a timeframe of 12 minutes per pitch on Thursday 22nd February, again, at the accommodating Powerhouse Theatre at Brisbane Powerhouse.
There are primitive instincts that rise to the surface when I hear the word: pitch (similarly to the word that rhymes with it, too). I’ve had a fair share of pitching assignments in my time and maybe, just maybe, I’ve nurtured a need to see people around me expound and expend themselves into ‘hot little messes’ lobbying to an audience of prospective theatre companies, touring companies and the like. I sat in the darkened Powerhouse Theatre waiting for such flustering to commence with the first pitch. Again, I was not totally correct.
I haven’t had this type of fun for a while, fifteen pitches from noon to almost six at night. The pitches were as varied and distinct as the writer, content creator or producer pitching their productions. All pitches were at different stages of their production journey cycle – some had previous seasons and are searching for the next season with a particular company or performance space; others were well-known individuals talking up a concept still in its’ embryonic state but because of their sector standing will probably attract producers and an allotted development period at some arts organisation or theatre space.
Listening to fellow First Nations mob pitch ‘bout works always tells of their histories and their states-of-their-nations of where they originate from. This is called a ‘spurred resilient of connection to the complex ecologies and to the undeniable fact: all of these countries have been colonised.
We all have put in defiant stances with our practices of cultures – we have not only survived but thrive. First Nations mobs are quickly reinforcing their strengths in colonised spaces and we are looking for the new space – and spaces.
First Nations mobs will continue the focus on the ‘urgency of now’ with how we continuously refocus our goals in championing our productions and performances in Australia. The wealth of knowledge from First Nations peoples already has shifted how (some) productions are created and produced for the current landscape in mainstream, independent theatre companies and arts organisations. Blackfullas just don’t come with stories; we come with whole methodologies of practicing our cultures in and through, and by and for, ‘performance’.
It is ‘how transferable our urgency for First Nations performance is in this country we call ‘Australia’ and for this to be heard and acted upon by our allies is the worthiest of questions. May the ‘urgency of now’ continue to ripple out for us now and for the future generations.
Intersectionality is the perfect hassle nay hustle!
Here’s Mr. Boehme’s deadly keynote address at APAM 2018:
Words: Colin Kinchela
Image: Colin Kinchela, APAM 2018