Interwoven makes its mark at Festival 2018

Natalie O’Driscoll | July 2018

Interwoven – Marks on the Lands, Marks on the Bodies brought together First Nations people of Australia, Aotearoa (New Zealand), the Pacific, America and Canada in a unique and important evening of performance which spoke to the threads between elements and people, and how globally Indigenous peoples continue to celebrate these themes today.

Joy Aroha-Vercoe, Producer and Curator of the event, explains the piece more fully.

“[It] is an expression of Indigenous Cultures throughout the Pacific that came together in a space on the Gold Coast to share stories of identity through sound and movement.”

“Our work is holistic, which means that our performance acknowledges the multiple facets of how we are, through daily activations that hold the Mauri (life force) of our stories, personal, lived and of the collective imagination.”

The piece united a collective of 70 extraordinary artists who explored the role that past generations have played in forming todays’ Gold Coast.

“Maori relationships to this place have been happening since the 1940’s,” explains Joy, “when the Maori Showbands first performed in Gold Coast venues to leave a lasting legacy still imprinted in the land today. “

“Our performance is a call from our ancestors to the ancestors of this land. As voyagers of the Pacific Ocean to the Salt Water People of the Jagun, we find land on the golden shores of this City to become one with this Country.”

Held on the Surfers Paradise Main Stage, Interwoven – Marks on the Lands, Marks on the Bodies was a 90 minute performance that took place at dusk in front of the Festival 2018 crowds. As well as celebrating a unique collaboration between Indigenous cultures, the piece also connected a multitude of artistic platforms, with art, traditional and contemporary dance, body markings, song and instruments blending into one ambitious undertaking.

“The culmination of Interwoven First Nations artists is a truly remarkable celebration of global tribal values, expression and creativity,” says Joy.

“There is always heavy debate when traditional and contemporary practice regarding history of place and generational story is involved, and it’s essential to have the conversation. It’s crucial that people, family groups, villages or tribes voice their own stories as art plays a significant role in shaping the future.

“The key is to respect traditional principles and frameworks of the land we journey, and we can learn that through stories of identity.”

Interwoven was a collaborative vision by Joy and Atamira Dance Company Artistic Director and Choreographer Jack Gray, whose acclaimed work across the continuum of Maori contemporary dance has seen him practice around the world in many contexts. The work reflects years of cultural consultation by Joy on the Gold Coast uniting local First Nations Jagun land people, Maori and Pacific Gold Coast Residents, with Indigenous Arts Practitioners of the Pacific.

“Global Indigenous People are exploring knowledge in new ways,” explains Joy.

“Reclaiming once banned cultural practices, the use of modern day tools, and ways of disseminating wisdom through human expressions and Indigenous markings have exploded over the past forty years.”

The work’s incubation process, supported through the City of Gold Coast’s Generate program, allowed the artists to explore the intricacies of each other’s practices, from air brushing and skin tattooing, to contemporary dance and traditional rituals.

“From sleeping under the stars, to sharing food and ceremony, grew a tangible experience that we channelled through our performance art making,” says Joy.

“I am proud to share the work we have achieved over the past three years of the Generate program. Throughout that time I have focused on gaining an appreciation of being on the Gold Coast and learning deeply from the insights of the Jagun local home people. Working together is what makes our interwoven concept so unique, as we showcase the mana (power and presence) of First Nations of Australia with Global Indigenous artists.

“Generate gave me the opportunity and a platform to build international relationships, and to be empowered and project as a vibrant multi-cultural city.”

Joy has just finished a five year role at Home of the Arts (HOTA) and has now taken up an Indigenous International Relations Advisors Role for Global Initiatives and Exchange at Creative New Zealand in Wellington, but she’s not done with the Gold Coast just yet.

“Now that the initial message has been conveyed, it’s time to concentrate on the identity of the local residential Pacific peoples that have been on living the Gold Coast. Atamira Dance Company in Auckland, Heilani Dance Company on the Gold Coast and Local Showband legacy is currently in conversation to develop a new work.”

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Generate is a City of Gold Coast initiative through the Regional Arts Development Fund and a partnership between the Queensland Government and the City to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland. The Queensland Government also supported Generate through the GC2018 Arts and Cultural Program.

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