Silence is a new dance work that challenges Australia’s nationhood and pokes fun at 25o years of occupation by interlopers who should really be paying rent.
Silence is a new dance work that challenges Australia’s nationhood and pokes fun at 25o years of occupation by interlopers who should really be paying rent.

Dance loudly proclaims Aboriginal sovereignty

SILENCE

Karul Projects

Until Sunday, Brisbane Powerhouse (sold out)

First a disclaimer. I'm a middle aged white guy who happens not to be a Captain Cook hater. My bad.

So I felt a bit like a spy in the house of love at this production which is a searing commentary on the paradigm of Australian nationhood, nationhood founded on dispossession.

It is a "powerful and provocative call to arms" according to the publicity blurb and I won't argue with that.

This work is part of the First Nations program at Brisbane Festival this year.

It's a dance piece but is also quite theatrical and there is dialogue and even some comedy sketches which lighten the load.

It is at times very funny and my favourite joke from the show has to be this one. "What do you call a boomerang that doesn't come back? A stick." Boom boom.

Personally I think humour is a great way to get a message across, a better way than raised fists and chanting ... " Always was, always will be Aboriginal land."

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But we get it and the choreographer of this piece, Bundjalung-Yugambeh, Wiradjuri and Ni-Vanuatu man Thomas E.S. Kelly, has some good points to make and one of the strongest is the lack of any treaty signed with Indigenous Australians.

"It's 2020 and Australian remains the only Commonwealth nation that doesn't have a treaty with its Indigenous peoples," Kelly says.

"The same questions have echoed through generations - promises have been made and broken too many times to count."

This is an overtly political work that screams for social justice and it could make some people feel uncomfortable.

Particularly if you admire Cook who gets a passing mention as the initiator of 25o years on injustice.

Karul Projects’ Silence is confronting and entertaining in equal measure. Picture: Simon Woods
Karul Projects’ Silence is confronting and entertaining in equal measure. Picture: Simon Woods

That is made clear to us as the dancers make their moves to the driving beat supplied by composer and performer Jhindu-Pedro who has his drum kit on the stage and, boy, does he know how to use it.

His compelling rhythm underpins the powerful visual storytelling and he comes out from behind the drum kit to play his own part joining Kelly, Taree Sansbury, Amber Ray Nofal, Benjin Maza, Kiara Malcolm-Wilson and Tiana Pinnell centre stage at times.

I was reminded of the work of Bangarra Dance Theatre but this outfit is more overt with their messaging and there's no doubting what they want and demand.

Which is why they wind the show up playing Yothu Yindi's classic hit Treaty, still a powerful and resonant anthem.

Silence is showing until Sunday at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Picture: Simon Woods
Silence is showing until Sunday at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Picture: Simon Woods

One of the other highlights and a very clever touch was to have the cast singing Advance Australia Fair in language. Brilliant.

It's a shame that it has sold out because more people should see it than will see it but hopefully it will return for another season sometime.

Theatre capacity is so limited now which is a shame but at least a show can go on, even if it's a show that made me a tad uncomfortable at times.

Jidhu-Pedro contemplates a boomerang in Silence. Picture: Simon Woods
Jidhu-Pedro contemplates a boomerang in Silence. Picture: Simon Woods

Still, it's just an hour long which is perfect really and despite feeling that discomfort I was uplifted and entertained as well.

Is it too political? Not to people supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and other causes.

As a festival piece it is certainly provocative and I guess that's the aim.

As for James Cook, he is perhaps not solely to blame for what followed his historic arrival but I suppose he will continue to be a symbol, for better and worse.

brisbanefestival.com.au

Originally published as Silence loudly proclaims Aboriginal sovereignty


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