Confessions of an APAM virgin
4 Mar 2014
I have returned from APAM inspired, invigorated and in awe of the volume of the cicadas here! If I had to sum up my experience in one word, I will use the Australian Aboriginal slang I picked up – Deadly!
In the coolness and darkness of one evening at APAM, I watched a stunning and memorising dance installation performed on water. Trade Winds featured two women with sculptured white dresses holding umbrellas with images of animals, insects and plants projected onto them, with which they playfully interacted. In the programme I note the images are by a contemporary artist – Samuel Tupou, whose surname sounds like he is a Pacific brother. Upon further Facebook research (i.e. friendly stalking), I realised one of the performers was Lisa Fa’alafi, co-director/choreographer and designer of dance-theatre company Polytoxic, which is a collective of renowned independent artists. Lisa is a Pacific sister.
As one of four New Zealand producers attending APAM with support from CNZ and the endorsement of Te Rea participants (Toi Maori Aotearoa & Auckland Arts Festival, Maori Producers Wananga), this year was a great opportunity to network and continue building relationships.
My three pieces of advice: have a strategy (the market is large and the weather is hot!); you will form special bonds with other indigenous producers and artists; and be prepared to be blown away by the works on show.
One of the main highlights for me was the Indigenous Producers breakfast meeting. I had already met most of the mob in roundtables and socialising. We all seemed to gravitate towards each other throughout APAM, so the meeting was hardly a room full of strangers but a gathering of 'brothers & sisters' keen to build more formal networks in our own countries and across Australia and Canada.
The wealth of knowledge, esteem for our respective cultures and acknowledgement of our struggles enabled us to cut to the chase and talk about how we can best work together to support, promote and champion indigenous work and indigenous practitioners.
Other highlights include the sell out season of Black Faggot by Victor Rodger; The Factory by KKK; and the most vibrant, poltical, clever burlesque performance I have ever seen – Hot Brown Honey Burlesque.
A change in genre, venue, pace and mood took me to watch IIbijerri Theatre Company’s excerpt performance of Coranderrk, noted as a definitive story from our neglected Aboriginal history. This powerful piece is based on the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in 1881 when the people of the Coranderrk Aboriginal reserve went head to head with the Aboriginal Protection Board.
Sitting with other indigenous producers, I was blown away by the simple set and powerful verbatim prose. I loved hearing their mother tongue and was overwhelmed by the content, performances and snippet of the history of these people who rose to the challenge despite the odds. I felt like bursting into tears, but instead wiped them away and rose for a standing ovation.