Performing Country; Self determined First People’s community development and reciprocal exchange of knowledge and collaboration with performing arts presenters.
Indigenous storytelling occurs in Australia within the continuum of a 60,000 year old, highly sophisticated system of Indigenous Knowledge, law and governance and in the context of modern historical atrocities resulting from colonisation. This manifests in exciting, adapted, diverse and responsive storytelling contemporary practices that reflects society now.
Through the process of colonisation and the development of townships and cities, Indigenous peoples have been dispossed from land, massacred, prevented from practising culture and forcibiliy removed from families. Racist laws and policies meant that in many regional centres, Indigenous peoples were not allowed to enter or walk on public municipal property, including most performing arts venues still in operation today.
This project looks at redress through the arts, by developing Indigenous led pathways to repatriating and revitalising cultural leadership in communties and rebuilding relationships with civic centres.
Performing arts centres can and should play a powerful strategic role in presenting Indigenous works within their annual performance program, and in connecting them with their current audiences, local Indigenous communities and local Indigenous artists through a sustained program of engagement and dialogue.
There are more than 130 professionally-run performing arts centres in Australia, located in metropolitan, regional and remote cities and towns. Several performing arts centres have, over many years, built strong, dynamic and consistent relationships with their local Indigenous communities and Indigenous artists. While at the other end of the spectrum, there are some who have not yet undertaken the most fundamental of Indigenous protocols – the welcome to, or acknowledgement of, country.
The process of changing the values, behaviours and cultures of performing arts centres is challenging and takes time – not everyone is confident in how to start the process, who to connect with, how to make change internally with teams (boards, crew, front-of-house, administration, catering); how to sustain and continue to imbed change; how to evaluate impact and community benefit – even the most experienced performing arts centres grapple with some of these challenges.
Performing Country is a four-year project that will focus on five key areas:
1) transformation of behaviours within performing arts venues
2) local leadership and community cultural development
3) collaborative presentation outcomes
4) audience development
5) re-envisioned cultural policy
Performing Country is a partnership between BlakDance, Blackfulla Performing Arts Alliance (BPAA), Performing Lines and Performing Arts Connections Australia (PAC).
Performing Country will be led and developed with the advice and guidance of Indigenous communities, elders and performing arts experts.