On the Couch with Lily Shearer

Moogahlin-Performing-Arts-Lily-ShearerWho is Lily Shearer?
Lily Shearer is a Murrawarri/Ngemba woman and a co-founding member of Mooghalin Performing Arts. Lily celebrates 40 years of service in the arts, and contributes her success to her family and community. Lily’s practice is deeply embedded in Cultural Values and beliefs of Murrawarri/Ngemba peoples instilled in her by her Grandparents, Parents and her Brewarrina community where she was born and raised. Lily began her career as a dancer at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Theatre in Glebe Sydney where Lily would go to Redfern every Friday and march for land rights to Town Hall alongside other First Peoples artist activists who would later go on to lead the cultural arts sector today. My practice is to work with the old ways of story telling through a connection to land, and through the body and sound, PLACE & PEOPLE .

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I’m doing something completely different to the usual form of Moogahlin Performing Arts biannual Yellamundie Festival. This 5th Yellamundie Festival is the first time we have done this kind of programming, which is really new and very exciting as in the past we have only developed playwrights and scripts. The team at Moogahlin have worked tirelessly to bring a slightly different palate of works to new audiences this year engaging with interdisciplinary artists and theatre makers together for the first time this year. For the 2021 Yellamundie Festival, Moogahlin Performing Arts will present six ground breaking new works, two plays, two dance pieces, and two compositions together with Sydney Festival and Carriageworks.

Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by three (3) things: first is the land as it provides food, shelter and clothing, however in this 21st Century we have become more materialistic and greedy, especially when it comes to water. Second are my ancestors as their sprit walks beside me to guide and protect me and thirdly very drear to my heart are my ten (10) grandchildren as I care for this place for them, to walk freely, with cultural pride and integrity in the future.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
The difference I make in the world is by working collectively with Moogahlin Performing Arts’ Company Leadership Team, it’s all about the collective voice when we are facilitating and enabling our people to share their stories, our way! This process takes time to build respectful relationships with artists, communities and partners that are based on strong cultural values of respect, reciprocity and must be relevant to our core values and artistic program. To think globally and act locally, to try each day to decolonize myself physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, and to be a decent human being.

Favorite holiday destination and why?
A favorite holiday destination is a difficult decision as I am in awe of so many PLACES & PEOPLE! However having recently spent time in Peru with my partner, who is the local blak Undertaker of Redfern, the land (PLACE) touched us physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. The generosity of PEOPLE reassured us that we were not alone in our thinking and that others think about Mother Earth as we do, and they share stories about her like us.  We were very fortunate and grateful to spend last Valentine’s Day in the Sacred Valley of Peru, sharing a meal whilst taking in the picturesque landscape was more than one could wish for on such a day. My Grandfather always told me, “To know and understand People, you need to visit their place and meet their land first.”  And I believe this to be true from my experience.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
When friends or strangers come to town I tell them you haven’t seen Australia until you go to my hometown of Brewarrina (Bre) to meet our Baiame’s Ngunnhu (Creator’s Fishtraps), as they are the oldest human-made structure in the world. If they can’t get to Bre, I take them to the Blue Mountains, La Perouse and walk the Sydney Harbor foreshore area to soak in the land of the oldest continuing living peoples of the planet. The other important place I take them is Redfern, and share the history of place, people and politics as this is our Blak Capital.

What are you currently reading?
At the moment I’m reading Giles Milton’s White Gold, the story of Thomas Pellow and Noth Africa’s European slaves. I love world history; it enables me to understand the world and my place BC (Before Cook). I’m also reading new First Peoples scripts and synopsis for the Yellamundie Festival!

What are you currently listening to?
I’m listening to a variety of music from my favorite Buffy St Marie, to Mumu Fresh, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Ursula Yovich, Emma Donovan, Shellie Morris, Uncle Jimmy Little and Vic Simms, oh and through some Dan Sultan and Tessa Thames in the mix too! Koori Radio 93.7FM keeps me company when I’m driving around a great way to stay updated on the national issues for our people and hear new voices with the old ones.

Happiness is?
Happiness is a country that respects, listens to and honors it’s First Peoples through Sovereignty and Land Rights. On a personal level happiness is being home in Bre with my family and community.

What does the future hold for you?
In thinking forward to the generations to come I dream and work hard at making change, like our ancestors did, that Mooghalin finds their own venue to create cultural hubs for our artists and independent collectives in Sydney and across NSW. Personally I’m ready to move home and share my experiences and gifts with my little Bre community whilst also keeping my strong connections to the many First Nations artists Moogahlin is working with in Australia and around the world. Right now in this future, I’m hoping that the 2021 Yellamundie Festival will be successful for all our people participating in it, and that more of our stories are staged and presented around the country.

Lily is the Artistic Director of the Yellamundie Festival – which is presented by Moogahlin Performing Arts with Sydney Festival and Carriageworks: 22 – 24 January 2021. For more information, visit: www.sydneyfestival.org.au for details.

Image: Lily Shearer – courtesy of Moogahlin Performing Arts