Sunday 14 July 2019

Work It: New Manifestos - Event Review

What: Work It - New Manifestos
When: 12 July 2019
Where: Main Hall, Arts House
Presented by: DJ Abyss, Fay Bendrups, Candy Bowers, Simona Castricum, Maude Davey, Emma Edwardes, Jamaica, Jess Knight, Lay the Mystic, Akec Makur Chuot, Alice Pung, and Sheree Stewart
Candy Bowers and DJ Abyss
One of the exciting new innovations Emily Sexton has brought with her brand of programming at Arts House is a public forum for community and artistic manifestos. The first iteration, First Dance, was presented as a low key affair as part of Dance Massive. The success of that event has led to the current presentation of Work It: New Manifestos which was curated and presented by one of our most powerful artists, Bowers.

The list of amazing femme artists and organisers which crossed our stage is an expanded program. What was 8 in the original was 12 in Work It. 12 strong and passionate femme perspectives took centre stage to tell the world what we want and how we are going to get it. What stood before us and spoke to us were voices of freedom and hope. With those voices came a vision and a plan - a plan which will work if only we would make the space for them to happen.

In a program switch which proved to be poignant and potent, the night began with Pilepileta (Stewart), a midwife and performer. Pilepileta had to speak first as she literally had to run to bring a new life into the world and she asked us to make a space for this returning spirit. Before she left she encourages us to engage in a loud and joyous chant of welcome for this newest member of our community.

Bowers then came on stage to welcome us into this space of truth telling. A nature goddess herself, Bowers had ensured the hall was filled with fragrant flowers and encouraged us to partake of their pleasing aroma across the evening - the lavender, the peonies, the silver princesses... Then she brought her power as her list of demands were laid down: 1. If you don't respect my existence, expect my resistance; 2. Women don't owe you shit; 3. Bite my thighs; and finally, 4. Decolonise and moisturise. She left us with the mantra for the evening - "Pain that is not tranformed is always transmitted."

Pung, writer and lawyer, talked to us about how hurtful 15 year old girls can be. You know the ones - they are vegan and believe in climate change, but don't you dare have a mixed race relationship because that is fair game for teasing and harassment! When asked by a young girl when the racism would stop her reply was simple. It probably won't, but you will develop a resistance and you will eventually find your own tribe. "Pain that is not transformed is always transmitted."

Castricum is a musician and architect. Castricum performed her pop dance piece Carry The Weight. Singing to a backing tape and playing the snare the auditorium filled with lyrics such as "Generations - they carry pain, Did you think they have no right to complain?' Li'l Mama (Edwardes), life coach, then powered on to the stage trying to soothe a baby to sleep before launching into an energetic (and almost physically impossible?) dance routine. The t-shirt over her leotards read 'Own Your Power' and own it she did as she did an amazing dance routine - a lot of it standing on her head! "Pain that is not tranformed is always transmitted."

In a programming coup, Bowers invited Bedrups to speak to us about humanitarian initiatives and what hopes and plans she has for how Australia might cope with emergencies - basically by acting like a real community. Bedrups is with the SES and she spoke of her research into emergency control in Peru. The lesson she would like us to learn and process she would like us to adopt is a revolution where emergency management is taken back from the beaurocrats and put back in the hands of the community. Take lessons from initiatives such as Neighbourhood Watch. Have street parties and assign roles to everyone who lives there. Run your own local drills. Identify the people around you who might need a little extra help and work out who will take that on. Keep it fun, keep it light, keep it in the forefront of everyone's mind, keep it in the community. "Pain that is not transformed is always transmitted."

Makur Chuot was one of our pioneer AFLW players and is now one of their Multicultural Development Officers. Makur Chuot spoke about the experience of spending the first 11 years of her life in a refugee camp and the despair and hopelessness which comes of that. She also speaks of her first experience of racism in Australia. It was the moment she first realised "my skin was going to be a problem." Crossing a road a man yelled out to her, "You black sluts...go back to where you came from." There was more but I can't bring myself to write it. I am too ashamed."Pain that is not tranformed is always transmitted."

Jamaica, Sydney-based rapper, then bounded on to the stage and took us lyric by lyric through the meaning of their anthemic song but not before Bowers and DJ Abyss reinterpreted the misogynistic lyrics of a well known rapper, creating a more polite rendering of courtship. One of the points Jamaica was making though, was to find your tribe because when you have a group you are stronger. The song breaks down the daily struggles of being a queer person of colour and the sentiments reflect Bowers' manifesto - "The one's who don't respect you don't get respect back." "Pain that is not tranformed is always transmitted."

Next on stage was Knight and her diminutive stature was no indication of the amount of insight and humour she would bring to us all. Knight talked about the repression of growing up Mormon. She regaled us with the doctrine of a woman's body being a gift to be unwrapped by her husband on the wedding night and how any exploration or enjoyment of before that moment was an untenable sin. As she discovered in her liberated 20s though, "Nobody fucks me like me!" Knight is now an apostate as she long ago came to the realisation that "Everything fun makes God sad." "Pain that is not transformed is always transmitted."

DJ Abyss (3CR) took the opportunity to speak to us through her music selections with lyrics such as "You don't like pussy with power" before the stage was colonised by the powerful essence of Davey. Davey spoke to us as a middle-aged white women who is by default complicit in all the things that are killing our people, our society, and our world. "The world is dying - or is it just me?" Davey talks about her shame in what we have done and her dreams to catch up on all the things she has missed in the mists of colonial living. Things like learning an Aboriginal language for example. Aware of the smaller half of her life left to live and the time running out for catch ups she drives it home with a final "The world is dying - or is it just us?" "Pain that is not transformed is always transmitted."

This evening of wanderers and warriors was brought to a close with Lay the Mystic. Lay brought their lyrical poetry and talked about all the shapes they carry inside their, how they are a hybrid set of stories. They talked abut how "My mothers all gifted me and my body" and asks us not to call them a woman because it mispronounces who they are. The point: "Nobody is ever experiencing one thing at a time." "Pain that is not transformed is always transmitted."

Work It: New Manifestos was an intelligent and exciting night of femme perspective, femme hope, femme despair, and femme vision. Pain was spoken to - the pain of people, of communities, of old ideas. More importantly though, it was a hope for the future and a plan to go with that hope which was the overwhelming message. The other key point was it is time for us to clear the decks because as Pilepileta so poignantly brought into focus "You mob all make space because the next generation is comin'!"

4.5 Stars


  1. Thank you @Samsara for coming along and for your fantastic review x you have captured the evening perfectly!! Xx @emma edwardes

  2. Thanks Emma. It was an amazing event and I feel privileged to have been there to experience it. :)


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