Tandanya, Australia's oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed arts centre, will present its inaugural First Nations Hub at the Adelaide Fringe from February 14 to March 15. The hub, part of Tandanya’s 30th-anniversary celebrations, will help showcase the national institute’s new vision with a program of contemporary First Nations arts and culture.
“This is our launch to the world to say, ‘Here we are. This is what we’re about to start doing’,” says CEO Dennis Stokes. “[It’s] a pure launch for the future of Tandanya.”
Although the institute runs Tandanya Survival Day and hosts the Tarnanthi Art Fair, it’s largely known as a traditional gallery space. Stokes hopes the First Nations Hub will change that perception – his vision is to showcase contemporary work as well as traditional art. “We want to revitalise [Tandanya] as a performance space, as a music space and as an arts space for Indigenous performers,” he says.
During Fringe, the hub will present immersive experiences and acclaimed theatre works alongside cabaret, comedy and music by First Nations artists. The highlight is Yabarra: Dreaming in Light, a free, cutting-edge light show created by Yellaka’s Karl Telfer, Illuminart and Adelaide Fringe. The work (previously displayed outdoors, along the River Torrens) conjures up long-gone animals and plants and shares the stories and knowledge of the land’s traditional custodians.
Other highlights include two powerful one-woman theatre works: Tammy Anderson’s I Don’t Wanna Play House and Tessa Rose’s The Daly River Girl (both running for three performances only). Then there’s Black List Cabaret, which will be hosted and curated by 2020 Fringe Ambassador Fez Fa’anana (Briefs) every Saturday night during Fringe. Live music (Nathan May and The Merindas), comedy (Aborigi-LOL and Kevin Kropinyeri) and dance (Yellaka’s Spirit and Karul Projects’ [Mis]Conceive) will also feature.
The First Nations Hub program is curated by Stokes and the Tandanya creative team, which includes corporate manager Gemma Page and creative producer Sasha Zahra (director of Windmill Theatre Co’s Amphibian). Stokes wants the program to show that contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is thriving.
“We’re writing plays, we’re performing music, we’re doing a lot more than just traditional things,” Stokes says. “We have to keep doing traditional [art practice] as that keeps our culture together, but we are also a thriving and evolving culture.”
There’ll also be live music every weekend at the refurbished Tandanya cafe, which will finally reopen after closing two years ago. (The space will also function as a bar at night during Fringe.) Executive chef Rhiannon Mercurio is working on a menu that features produce from the Indigenous-owned native food company Something Wild (expect wild boar and kangaroo in place of chicken schnitzels), while Tandanya has collaborated on a beer with Big Shed Brewing and a Tandanya Gin (made with native botanicals) with Antipodes Gin Co.
First Nations Hub will run from Friday February 14 to Sunday March 15 at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute at 253 Grenfell Street, Adelaide.