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17 Mar 2022


In conversation: SSI New Beginnings Ambassador Shyamla Eswaran talks diversity at New Beginnings Festival.


Shyamla Eswaran and BINDI BOSSES at SSI’s New Beginnings Festival in 2019.

This year, an eclectic group of Sydney’s newest community members will take centre stage. Click here to get a taste of the impressive 2022 lineup.

The Festival is the brainchild of Carolina Triana and has undergone a vibrant evolutionary journey since its inception back in 2015.

SSI New Beginnings Ambassador, Shyamla Eswaran (she/her/they), is an independent fusion dance artist, choreographer, educator and host. She holds a Master’s degree in international human rights law and policy and advocates for cross-cultural exchange and anti-discrimination through the arts.

What is the most exciting thing about being the New Beginnings Festival Ambassador, and what does the role mean to you?

Having performed at the New Beginnings Festival before becoming ambassador, I am super proud to promote this festival.

People lead it from diverse cultures, which is missing from most other festivals.

SSI Arts and Culture Producer Rapha Brasil’s curation is exceptional, and the SSI Arts & Culture team are incredible to work with.

This year involves more First Nations people than ever before as stallholders and performers, with an opening act by Malyangapa Barkindji rapper BARKAA.

We have an incredible lineup of artists, including the Indigenous Iraqi band Azadoota, the Sudanese musician Gordon Koang, the Armenian jazz band Zela Margossian Quintet, and the women’s percussion group Ile Ilu.

The New Beginnings Festival means a lot to me because it creates a safe space for artists to share their culture and heritage on their own terms.

It’s free so that everyone can enjoy it. People can come together over the things that unite us, like food, art and community.

What inspired you to start BINDI BOSSES?

My art is shaped by dance and music from all over the world.

But growing up, I never felt like there was a platform where I could fully express myself away from Western and Anglo-Australian-centric expectations. For example, people kept asking me to perform North Indian Bollywood dances when I felt more connected to South Indian culture and dance.

Starting BINDI BOSSES was a way to make my own platform where I could be myself.

It’s a fusion arts company that’s influenced by traditional classical and folk dances and South Asian cinema, and street and popular music both inside and outside our cultures.

It brings together dancers of different ages and backgrounds. People don’t ask for Bollywood anymore. They ask for BINDI BOSSES.

How do you use dance to advocate for human rights and anti-discrimination?

I often say that art changes hearts over minds.

It’s immersive and seeps into your body. You can dance to rhythms that aren’t part of your culture and be exposed to other people’s experiences, cultures and ideas. It opens you up.

When you advocate through art, there’s less pressure to be mainstream. You can be bolder and have a deeper impact. You can be staunch and tell controversial stories and push boundaries.

BINDI BOSSES is more than an arts company. It’s a platform to amplify marginalised voices.

At the New Beginnings Festival we will debut a new work called SIGNS, a collaboration with First Nations artists, choreographers, designers and mentors with spoken word by Boori Monty Pryor (a proud descendant of the Birri-gubba and Kunggandji people), Movement Direction by Ella Havelka (a proud descendant of the Wiradjuri people), necklaces designed by Cleonie Quayle from CQ Aboriginal Jewelry (a proud descendant of the Malyangapa, Barkindji people) and On Country learning facilitated by Clarence Bruinsma (a proud descendant of the Yaegl people) from Bush 2 Bowl, a 100% First Nations owned social enterprise specialising in growing, selling and educating about native foods.

This project is part of a deep, ongoing commitment to our First Nations partners, who help us understand what it means to connect with and perform on unceded land.

What has been your proudest moment?

I recently came down with COVID during an extremely busy period, with many performances to reorganise.

Everyone came together and stepped up, and we pulled through. I’m really proud of how BINDI BOSSES has become a close-knit community and support network.

We’ve created a space not just for sharing stories and connecting with our audiences but also for educating and supporting each other and the wider community to be unapologetically ourselves.
It’s also very special when our work is praised and shared by the artists of the songs we dance to, such as Lilly Singh, DJ Groove Dev, Cartel Madras and Baker Boy.

To find out more about SSI’s New Beginnings Festival, click here.

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