Carriageworks presents world premiere of new dance work by resident company Marrugeku

Bhenji Ra, Emmanuel James Brown, Miranda Wheen, Zachary Lopez, Chandler Connell, Feras Shaheen, Issa el Assaad, Luke Currie-Richardson and Ses Bero in 'Jurrungu Ngan-ga' by Marrugeku. Photo by Abby Murray.
Bhenji Ra, Emmanuel James Brown, Miranda Wheen, Zachary Lopez, Chandler Connell, Feras Shaheen, Issa el Assaad, Luke Currie-Richardson and Ses Bero in 'Jurrungu Ngan-ga' by Marrugeku. Photo by Abby Murray.

Carriageworks will present the world premiere of a new dance work by resident company and Australia’s leading Indigenous intercultural dance company Marrugeku. Originally announced to premiere in August 2021 but delayed because of the COVID-19 lockdown, the work will now be presented from 27 – 29 January. Jurrungu Ngan-ga — meaning Straight Talk in Yawuru — is a powerful and provocative new work reflecting on the disproportion of Indigenous Australians in custody and first-hand descriptions of life inside Australia’s immigration detention centres.

The multimedia theatre production is inspired by perspectives on incarceration shared by Yawuru leader and Senator for Western Australia Patrick Dodson, one of six commissioners and the only non-lawyer who sat on the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. It draws on themes from the (multi-award-winning) autobiographical novel No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (2018) identified by the book’s collaborator and translator Iranian Australian philosopher and activist Omid Tofighian. The novel, by Kurdish-Iranian journalist and filmmaker Behrouz Boochani is an account of Boochani’s perilous journey to Christmas Island and his subsequent incarceration in an Australian government immigration detention facility on Manus Island.

Carriageworks CEO Blair French said, “Carriageworks is proud to commission and present this provocative and timely new work by Marrugeku, a work that blends searing truths with dark humour, fear, sadness and courage to highlight ways to empower us all to think and rewrite our future together.”

Set within a large-scale installation designed by leading West Australian visual artist Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Jurrungu Ngan-ga was conceived by choreographer and dancer Dalisa Pigram and director and dramaturg Rachael Swain with Patrick Dodson, and created with performers Czack (Ses) Bero, Emmanuel James Brown, Chandler Connell, Luke Currie-Richardson, Issa el Assaad, Zachary Lopez, Bhenji Ra, Feras Shaheen and Miranda Wheen; dramaturgy Hildegard de Vuyst and cultural dramaturgy Behrouz Boochani, Patrick Dodson, Omid Tofighian, with music by Sam Serruys, Paul Charlier and Rhyan Clapham aka DOBBY; sound design by Sam Serruys and Paul Charlier, costumes by Andrew Treloar and lighting design by Damien Cooper.

Marrugeku addresses local and global issues of the fear of cultural difference. Through movement, spoken word, installation and a powerful original musical soundscape, its multi-talented cast draw on their intersecting yet distinct cultural and community-informed experiences (Indigenous, immigrant, people seeking asylum, transgender and settler) to ask: who really is in prison here?

Marrugeku Co-artistic Director Rachael Swain said, “Jurrungu Ngan-ga brings attention to Australia’s creation of dehumanizing spaces without due process of law and the necessary social support and respect. The show reveals how this unique dialogue between Indigenous, settler and refugee perspectives can address the burning issues of our times, investigating that which Australia wishes to isolate and lock away from view.”

Jurrungu Ngan-ga was commissioned by Carriageworks and Arts House in Melbourne.

Marrugeku’s Jurrungu Ngan-ga will be presented at Carriageworks from 27 – 29 January. For tickets and more information, visit carriageworks.com.au/events/jurrungu-ngan-ga-straight-talk.

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