Polyglot’s April/May e-news

China, Melbourne, Perth and Canada

Polyglot and Papermoon Puppet Theatre were delighted to have the opportunity to take Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) on a five-week tour to China in March and April. Presented by The A.S.K (Art Space for Kids), the show played to sold-out audiences in Hangzhou and Beijing. Photographer Ham captured the magic of this immersive boat voyage – see some of these photos here. CGTN created a powerful news story about Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) – watch and read this here.

Closer to home, Polyglot had a fabulously disgusting time at Feast – a free installation that was presented at Arts Centre Melbourne in conjunction with the production Billionaire Boy. In a space reminiscent of the school canteen from the show, audiences were invited to stay, play and create truly horrible concoctions out of paper, cellophane, straws and more. Photographer Jason Lau photographed one of the sessions on Friday 12 April – you can see some of the images here.

Manguri Wiltja, our collaboration with FORM and Tjanpi Desert Weavers, enjoyed its world premiere on Saturday 13 April. Manguri Wiltja is a play space of repurposed tyres, intricate woven forms, and evocative sound that invites children and families to explore, listen, and learn tjanpi weaving skills. A wiltja (traditional shelter) created from delicate woven circles offers a tranquil space for contemplation. It was presented as part of Revealed, the 2019 Aboriginal Art Market at Fremantle Arts Centre. Our Artistic Director Sue Giles kept a travel diary during the team’s week in Perth – read more here.

First On The Ladder kicked off for the year in Shepparton with Unity Cup – the annual Rumbalara and Congupna celebration of the women of the clubs. Our new facilitators, Shepp locals Alkira Power and Lara Best, joined Dan Goronszy, Ashlee Hughes, Lachlan MacLeod and Tammy-Lee Atkinson to run a special workshop where kids decorated their own pieces of bunting, which were then joined to form a fabulous decoration for the Club rooms. Jaimie-Lee Hindmarsh, Ian Pidd and Dan Koop worked with the kids to bring Rumba Radio to the air. Sue Giles AM was one of the VIP guest interviewees for the day, expertly fielding questions such as, ‘why do you like short hair?’ and ‘which of your children is your favourite?’ First On The Ladder in Moree launched the following weekend, with painting at the Art Tent, a movement workshop, and Boomerangs Broadcast Corporation (BBC) Radio playing around the home ground.

First On The Ladder is also gearing up for Shopfront, which is being presented in Melbourne for YIRRAMBOI Festival from 4-12 May. Audiences of all ages can get a glimpse into the project as a Chapter House Lane shopfront is transformed into a beautifully curated exhibition of art, video and sound works. Stay to watch and listen to animations and music clips created by the children of Rumbalara Football Netball Club. Read more here. 

And we’re preparing for Polyglot’s first ever tour to Canada! Paper Planet will be unfurling at Ottawa Children’s Festival and the International Children’s Festival of the Arts in St. Albert. Ants will also be marching into Junior – Toronto’s International Children’s Festival at Harbourfront Centre. Stay tuned for an update about this tour in the next e-news.

Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) in China

“When the boat was sinking, I suddenly couldn’t find my son. The cloth blocked my sight. I looked around and found he was helping the boat crew. That moment was a special one that I’d never experienced. At that time, all I was thinking was that no matter what, all the family members should be together.” Audience member.

Polyglot and Papermoon Puppet Theatre were delighted to have the opportunity to take Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) on a five-week tour to China in March and April. Presented by The A.S.K (Art Space for Kids), the show played to sold-out audiences in Hangzhou and Beijing. Photographer Ham captured the magic of this immersive boat voyage – below are some of his photos. CGTN created a powerful news story about Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) – watch and read this here.

Photography: Ham, courtesy of The A.S.K

Polyglot’s tour to China was supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grants Program. 

Feast at Arts Centre Melbourne

In the first week of the school holiday, Polyglot had a fabulously disgusting time at Feast – a free installation that was presented at Arts Centre Melbourne in conjunction with the production Billionaire Boy. In a space reminiscent of the school canteen from the show, audiences were invited to stay, play and create truly horrible concoctions out of paper, cellophane, straws and more. A particularly wonderful dish was earwig earwax meringue with cat sick and spider leg sauce. Delicious! Photographer Jason Lau captured one of the sessions on Friday 12 April – we’re thrilled to share some of these shots with you here.

Photography: Jason Lau, courtesy of Arts Centre Melbourne

Manguri Wiltja in Perth

Manguri Wiltja premiered on Saturday 13 April at Revealed – the Aboriginal Art Market at Fremantle Arts Centre in Perth. A cross-artform collaboration between artists from the remote Aboriginal community of Warakurna, and innovative arts organisations Tjanpi Desert Weavers, FORM and Polyglot, Manguri Wiltja is a performative installation, created through a series of creative developments from 2016-2018 in Melbourne, Warakurna and Perth. A play area of delicate woven forms, repurposed tyres, and evocative sound invites children and families to explore, listen, and learn ‘tjanpi’ weaving skills. A ‘wiltja’ (traditional shelter) of finely woven circles offers space for contemplation.

We’ve previously shared our Artistic Director Sue Giles’ travel diaries from the two Warakurna residencies – read Part I here and Part II here. Below is her diary from the week of the premiere.

Day 1 – Monday 8 April
It’s a beautiful site: sloping grassed hillside with a nice flat bit at the top and with shade cover all over from mighty beach pines. Air thick with the disappointed cawing of Australian ravens. We ate lunch and then drew up the site, getting preferences about where to work and where to put the Wiltja. The decisions are practical – we need to sit in a flat place or you feel the slope after a while in your back. The Wiltja should look over everything else. The tyres need to lead the people up into the site. We set to work moving the making space to where it will be and then laying out the tyres on the grass. They already look fabulous but with colours on them – yes we’re going for Tjanpi colours and lots of them! – they’ll look like jewels. The ladies wound balls of wool as Dallas helped us arrange the entrance line – an idea of filling the tyres with sand to make a treading path leading to two circles kids can burrow through. The others started making the animals to hold the speakers while CB and Justin listened to the music selections he’d made and the arrangements of her songs. It was a relaxed and beautiful afternoon with the ravens interestedly exploring the tyres as they were laid out, the sun and dappled shade patterning the pink tarps the ladies have for making, laughter and chat and rapidly growing animals and birds. The ladies are extraordinary makers: fast, strong and their creations full of character. Watching Nananya ‘make the grass cry’ is awesome. My hands feel frail and spindly next to her dexterous and nimble fingers.

Day 2 – Tuesday 9 April
Woke early of course and had to be very determined to go back to sleep. It was a windy and wild night and we were expecting 34 degrees today. I did my stretches on the damp back lawn looking at a splendid gum with dangling bark and a paper owl hanging from one of the branches to scare off smaller birds, maybe possums? A bright blue and sparkling day with a warm wind.

We arrived first, just as Tam came striding across the lawn after spending her morning exploring the local area. Today was tyres and lay out, painting the white base for colour circles, construction of sculptural pieces, and making more animals. Everyone turned out fresh and ready to begin and we were delighted to see many other Warakurna people arrive to say hello – including the fabulous Eunice Porter with Jane from the Warakurna Arts Centre. Lena turned up too and Rocky, Nananya’s son. It was wonderful to feel like the community had come to the Arts Centre, bringing the atmosphere of Warakurna into the middle of the work. The only thing missing was two or three cheeky kids and several dogs.

Woodie arrived (my cousin Cathy’s son) and a friend of his called Spark and they set to work, painting the white base for the coloured circles on the tyres. Same too for Andrew and Rhianna, and a friend of theirs called Dana who is excellent. The ladies were flying through the animal making, with Dallas’s raven looking wonderful with its outstretched wings. She laughed as the ravens’ outcry got louder in the trees, “I’m making them a wife.” CB started a bird after making a panting dog with a red tongue, and Nanaya’s dog got the speaker with the barks and growls. DG made a gorgeous camel and with camel noises it was complete. Very funny hearing the grunts and groans and bellows coming from the cutest camel you can imagine. Stef and Tam were at work strengthening the animals with structural stitching – this is hard work, sewing in and out to make the joints and larger parts of tjanpi as strong and supported as possible, because these sculptures will be played with.

Day 3 – Wednesday 10 April
Back on site everyone relaxed and we all got back into work – the ladies merry and chatting and laughing while making their animals, Stef and Tam sharing the construction load and our volunteers (Daina and Woody here today) painting the tyres beautiful colours. Some young ones from Roebourne came to help and they stayed with us all day; four kids around 10 – 13 years old who ended up painting all our 44 gallon drums, and heaps of tyres too. That felt great. Also today because the artists and arts centres around the state were all arriving we had lots of family groups and small children coming to see what was happening, climbing on the tyres and having fun in the sand.

After lunch we put up the Wiltja – as fresh and pristine as it was when we’d made it a year and a half ago. Justin’s sound experiment was working beautifully, with the drums giving off a slightly echoing, windy timbre to the sounds as if hearing it through a tunnel or from a distance. CB’s songs sounded lovely, the bells and raindrops and stone-in-can rhythms making the landscape complete. Justin looked very happy.

Day 4 – Thursday 11 April
We wound the trees in tangle so they looked like tjanpi and cleaned up the overhead suspension of the cables. The sound was coming out of the drums beautifully – Justin has done a fantastic job with the effect. One elderly woman passing the site stopped in amazement hearing CB’s gospel songs coming from the air apparently “that’s my language! I know those songs, I’m a Christian woman. This makes me feel GOOD”. Another couple of people walked up the slope with their small children and couldn’t figure out where the sound was coming from; voices in the air around them.

When the children came we were ready for them. 15 grade one kids – 6 year olds – and their teachers. The ladies had stationed themselves at the back of the making area with some family who were there also. Dallas came with us to the front to talk to the kids. I think we need to sit everyone down to do this: quietness is part of the entrance. Dallas’ voice is quiet too, so that it’s hard to hear unless we pay attention and excited children find this hard.  We sent them up one at a time, with shoes off, along the sand filled tyre path to the double circle entrance and set them loose.

Day 5 – Friday 12 April
Today we re-arranged the setup, pulling the making place deeper into the heart of the layout and allowing the Wiltja to sit at the edge of the space as a background to activity. It is how CB suggested it would work best a while ago when the work was still a drawing. It felt much stronger and once the kids arrived, we were ready to trial the work. 

The kids were a group of 50 Grade 3, 4 and 5s with their teachers and some parents. We all sat and talked first, setting up the activity of the session like a workshop but also giving some background to the work as they didn’t know anything about the project, unlike the previous day when the grade ones had done some research about tjanpi. They loved being asked to take their shoes and socks off – freedom! Then we went back to the line of tyres and started the ritual of entrance.

It was a great session. The tyre play was satisfying and engaging for a long time, kids playing chasey of course, balancing on the tyre walls and then starting to build with them, stack them and pile them. They found the animals and started to play with those too. 50 in the space felt fine – I don’t know how many more it would hold with satisfaction though as the tyres started to be stockpiled.

The weaving was super successful too with smaller groups at a time working on the mats. Children concentrating fiercely winding wool around tjanpi then leaping up to haul tyres. Two completely different forms of effort. There was play around the Wiltja too – we had the tjanpi fire and the billy can so kids were making carrots and beans and making soup on the fire.

The time slipped away quickly and with very little intervention necessary on our part. Their reflections afterwards were good – they had fun, it was creative, it was free, they felt they could do anything, they were interested in what was happening with the things they made, they liked the animals and the sounds, heard language, children’s voices, music and animal sounds. 

“That was the best excursion ever!” Shouted one girl with her arms up in the air.

Good.

Photography: Bewley Shaylor

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