At the New Beginnings: Refugee Arts & Culture Festival 2016, the fun won’t end with the music and dance performances. A host of original workshops will also expose attendees to new experiences ranging from relaxing yoga with sacred Aboriginal sounds to vibrant African dance and drumming.
The day will kick off with the Heartdancers – a multidisciplinary charity organisation that delivers yoga and relaxation sessions to vulnerable communities. For New Beginnings, they will present a unique workshop called ‘Guwing Bayabuba’ – a term used by the Gadigal people to describe sunrise as a new beginning. Binowee Bayles, a proud Gadigal storyteller from Redfern, will lead the workshop in a sacred practice to welcome new arrivals to Australia and align their spirits with those of her ancestors and the land the new arrivals now walk on.
“Body painting traditionally carries a deep spiritual significance for Aboriginal people,” said Ms Bayles. “In our workshop, I will use white paint for the face, which is the colour used to acknowledge and call our ancestors. It also leads to the mindfulness of thoughts. We’ll start by applying it on the head first and around the eyes to think and see good things.”
A powerful combination of cultural practices will emerge from the encounter between the sacred Aboriginal songs and stories; the music from the Afghani bandora played by Hazara refugee Hakimi; and the guitar sounds from Patricio Lara – a passionate Chilean musician. Attendees will go on a transformative and powerful journey as this soundtrack unites with the movements of yoga and kalari – a martial art from Kerala in India. In the background, Colombian visual artist Carlos Agamez will be building a live art installation.
After the Heartdancers, calm will give way to the storm as Lucky African Dance takes to the stage for a dancing and drumming workshop, where the audience will be invited to connect with the animated rhythms of West Africa.
Dance practitioner and choreographer Lucky Lartey will facilite the free-form, unstructured session, which he says is open to anyone keen to have fun.
“You get to be yourself. I’ll teach you how to do something but you can express yourself in any way you want. You don’t have to look like everyone else,” Mr Lartey said. “The music is amazing and the drumming makes you feel alive.”
But the body won’t be the only thing attendees will exercise at New Beginnings workshops. The Sydney Story Factory (SSF), a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people, will be holding a writing workshop to explore identity and community for children aged seven and above.
“We will be hosting a session where participants will be encouraged to create a collection of fantastic and strange ‘Robot Birds’ representing the ideas of unity, hope and new beginnings,” said Richard Short, Storyteller-in-chief at the SSF.
“Each participant will design their own Robot Bird and write a short poem investigating the themes of the festival.”
The SSF will also hold a stall where attendees of any age will be able to contribute to three never-ending shared poems about what the concepts of unity, hope and new beginnings represent for them.
Rounding out the workshops will be a Japanese Origami session from Humble Creatives, a social enterprise belonging to SSI Employment Services. With sessions running every two hours, participants will have the opportunity to learn and create their own origami crane with the art of paper folding.
“The crane is one of the most popular and classic forms of Japanese Origami and is an international symbol for peace and hope,” said Sarah Webber, Arts & Craft Supervisor at Humble Creatives. “We feel that this is a very important and appropriate symbol for a festival like New Beginnings.”
This workshop will be delivered with the assistance of volunteers from SSI’s Work for the Dole program.
Humbles Creatives will be also hosting a stall where attendees will be able to purchase some of the products they make, such as natural soy wax candles with essential oils or large coloured lanterns with leather handles. All benefits will go to support SSI programs and causes, including Humble Creatives.