The Australian premiere of Akram Khan’s unique retelling of The Mahabharata, and Filipino contemporary dancer Eisa Jocson’s exploration of masculinity are two powerhouse performances to open the eleventh OzAsia Festival, which kicks off today and runs until 8 October at venues throughout the Adelaide Festival Centre, Elder Park, Nexus Arts, Mercury Cinema and many more throughout the city.
Over 800 community and international artists will deliver this year’s festival, coming from locations including Japan, Singapore, China, India, Malaysia, Korea, The Philippines, Hong Kong and Indonesia. The program features 6 world premieres, 19 Australian premieres, 35 events exclusive to Adelaide, more than 97 professional performances, over 100 community performances, 18 talk events, 21 film screenings, 6 exhibitions and 67 workshops.
“The opening weekend of OzAsia Festival will bring the best of contemporary Asia to Adelaide across an array of theatre, dance, music, visual arts and film,” says Artistic Director Joseph Mitchell. “Akram Khan is one of the world’s most important choreographers and Until the Lions, which kick starts this year’s festival and is exclusive to Adelaide, will be a rare opportunity to see one of his full length productions in Australia.
“Singapore Art Museum will also present their first major exhibition in Australia with After Utopia at Samstag Museum. This free exhibition features work from Singapore Art Museum’s permanent collection and is one of the largest collections of Southeast Asian art anywhere in the world.
“There is something for everyone across the opening weekend and the heart of the festival will be at the Lucky Dumpling Market on the Adelaide Convention Centre Lawns, where there will be delicious food options, free music, workshop activities and a stunning site design that captures the vibrant atmosphere of contemporary Asia for audiences here in Adelaide.”
Nexus Arts hosts the very first performance, Macho Dancer, featuring ballet-trained dancer Eisa Jocson (also well-known for her starring role in the 2016 Peaches film clip How You Like My Cut) performing a typically male-dominated nightclub dance, appropriated for a female and to an electrifying soundtrack.
The female perspective is further explored by world-renowned dancer and choreographer Akram Khan in award-winning work Until the Lions, who draws on his own experiences performing in Peter Brook’s iconic staging of The Mahabharata, when he was a child.
Drawing together a Pan-Asian cast from Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines as well as four live musicians, Until the Lions retells a passage from the famous Indian text: princess Amba is abducted by the powerful warrior Bheeshma, rendered unmarriageable and in turn invokes the power of the Gods to seek revenge.
Re-examining the mother-child relationship, particularly when caring for aging parents, are Singapore’s Claire Wong and Noorlinah Mohamed in Recalling Mother, using humour, multilingual wordplay and family memories to undertake a heartfelt discussion of the challenges of modern Singaporean life.
On the opening weekend, celebrations continue at Nexus Arts with an array of alternate, underground and boundary-pushing musical acts from both Asia and Adelaide, including Air Bandung. Featuring a lineup of four post-rock groups from both Adelaide and Bandung (West Java, Indonesia), at times mixed with funk, electronic and jazz beats, groups 1.1 Immermann, Trah,yeahyeahabsolutelynoway! and Under the Big Bright Yellow Sun will have audiences spellbound in no time.
The life, travels, military service and career of Australian painter Ian Fairweather is explored by composer Erik Griswold, author Rodney Hall, artist Glen Henderson, koto (traditional Japanese stringed instrument) performer Satsuki Odamura and Adelaide’s own Zephyr Quartet, in Fairweather.
The brand-new Lucky Dumpling Market, created together with the team behind Adelaide Fringe’s Gluttony, is situated on the Adelaide Convention Centre lawns and will ensure that festival-goers are kept nourished in between performances and events. With free entertainment from local and international bands, artists and DJs, it is the ultimate spot for both a warming afternoon lunch and spicy late-night hangout. Bands performing include Australia’s Electric Fields, Malaysia’s Alena Murang, The Philippines’ Enrique De Dios, Indonesia’s Mocca and Singapore’s SA.
OzAsia Festival’s film component remains as popular as ever, with all films screened at the Mercury Cinema and beginning with Singapore Now, three films by contemporary Singaporean directors, including Kirsten Tan, whose film Pop Aye was also awarded Best Screenplay at Sundance 2017.
A selection of award-winning films depicting modern day Asia comprises Across Asia, in addition to three additional titles by Women Directors in Asia. Fresh and New is an evening of next generation Hong Kong shorts screened alongside experimental student works from Flinders University, whilst Iranian Independents celebrates the important role of sales agent Mohammad Attebai in bringing the best new Iranian films to the world.
After Utopia: Revisiting the Ideal in Asian Contemporary Art is on view at the Samstag Museum of Art, curated by Singapore Art Museum’s Siuli Tan and Louis Ho, and presented in partnership with the Samstag Museum of Art and 2017 OzAsia Festival. Through installations, moving image, paintings and sculptures, the exhibition explores how our ideals mirror our innermost yearnings, and that gnawing sense that this world and its realities are not enough.
Also now on display are a selection of multimedia works showcasing the constantly changing contemporary Chinese landscape from China’s outstanding Chengdu Blue Roof Museum in Shifting Permanence; and Hong Kong’s Doris Wong Wai Yin’s seemingly everyday objects revealing much deeper meanings in A Place Never Been Seen Is Not A Place.
At the Migration Museum, mixed media images and stories by John Young, Brian Castro and Luke Harrald depict Macau Days, the oldest European settlement in Asia and home to its own remarkable culture and identity; and at the Art Gallery of South Australia, the extraordinary heritage of Buddhist art from across Asia, in particular when the Indian prince Siddhartha achieved enlightenment to become the Buddha, is the focus via sculpture, painting and ritual artefacts of Awakening: Art of Buddhism.
The 2017 OzAsia Festival continues to 8 October. For more information and full program, visit: www.ozasiafestival.com.au for details.
Image: Under The Lions – photo by Jean Louis Fernandez