Tag Archives: WOMADelaide

2021: Meeting the moment #10

I’m tired and weary from a week where it feels like women of Australia and a few good men have had enough. I have rambling thoughts and I have a few facts, it doesn’t hang together well as a post, but that is the point really.

One in four women have experienced sexual abuse or assault of some kind and the rest of us are connected to these women, they are our friends, our sisters, our daughters, mothers, aunts, cousins. They are more likely to tell a friend than a police officer. The rate is three times more for indigenous women. Data from 2017 shows, one in three victims of sexual assault cases hospitalised, identified a spouse or domestic partner as the perpetrator. In 2018, the rate of police-recorded sexual assault was almost 7 times as high for females as males. Almost 2 million Australian adults have experienced at least 1 sexual assault since the age of 15. Surely this is enough of a reason to want to increase what we are doing to educate, train, support and heal? Why does it take deaths and public figures to be in the news to draw attention to these crimes? This is an epidemic, it is an everyday assault on our communal health and wellbeing. COVID measures are called for to change behaviours, physical distancing, policing of good hygiene, check-ins could all take on a different shape. In this epidemic there has been too much of washing hands. As more people share their #metoo stories, triggers are inevitable, accidentally causing what were safe spaces to not be so safe any more. I know I am avoiding and monitoring where I am going, what I am reading and listening too.

I have been heartened with the work being done in schools on consent. Remember the meaning of consent: the mutual agreement properly attained freely with an understanding decisions have both immediate and consequential effect. Children are rarely able to give consent that is fully informed, having little or no access to knowledge of the potential of actions. As we get older we learn more deeply the value of consent and why being explicit is necessary, and how it can be revoked at any time. If a sixteen year old did not give consent then that is rape of a minor. If an eighteen year old or eighty year old is in the same position, it is rape. No child can give consent, that is the point about the age of consent, so it is always rape if the victim is under the age of consent. In the state where I live, the age of consent is 17. There is a lot I don’t consent too. And in the political and legal contexts I don’t care if our societal standards and expectations have changed over decades, I am reminded that consent can be withdrawn at any time, and I am hoping those who voted for a national government that seems bereft of basic HR practices will withdraw their consent to being governed by them the first chance they get.

If there is a whiff of an inappropriate behaviour and before it is proven to be true or not, individuals are stepped down, directed to HR to resolve and then the investigations can be explored in light of policy, the law and health considerations. This happens every day in workplaces everywhere. It is proper practice, nothing special. I am completely perplexed why this has not happened in Parliament or at the direction of the Prime Minister.

I need a lie down and a good cry, my anger muscle is worn from over use, my compassion index remains high and I am grateful to those picking up the mantel and building the pathway of this reckoning. The avengers will be taking to the streets in pursuit of justice. This is personal, this is political and at scale. There are consequences and accountabilities to be had. You don’t need to be a father or a mother to have a conscience as so wisely pointed out by Grace Tame at the National Press Club this week. I have been musing for the need of a national helpline – let’s call it the Jenny Support Line and any one not quite sure what to do can give a Jenny a call. The Cornish don’t need to have a mortgage on Cousin Jenny’s to provide sustenance and comfort for those down in the coal mines. Maybe some men don’t know what to do and need some guidance, a quick call to Jenny will give them the confidence and strength to take a public step forward and help build a place where everyone is safe and those that groom and misuse their power are nipped in the bud of their blossoming predation.

While every possible channel I am connected to seems to be blinking, buzzing and bleating to get my attention. The calls and messages are from the re-traumatized, the vicariously traumatised, solidarity sisters. There is sadness. There is fear that sharks are circling around complicity with someone else’s story, or the shame of your own story surfacing. There is pain and deep aching for a time when safety and care for the victim will out weigh the privilege of a man’s position or career. There is her family, there is his family, friends, children – all innocent – being dragged into dark and confusing spaces as they are alienated from the world they knew. Hearts are broken. Lives destroyed. Martyrs are made before revelations.

Trust is sacred. When trust is broken, like shards of glass strewn on the floor, being careful where you step lest you cut yourself on a sliver, your fragility stocks grow. Delicate and careful placement of words, actions, attention to where you tread is heightened. This is not a time for casual or loose language.

Like so many others, I am tired and want to sleep and crawl under the covers and get it to go away. I turn off feeds, and don’t watch news, and still it seeps in with calls and conversations, uninvited and consistently. I am finding it hard to be angry, it feels more like resignation and grief to me. Time for truth telling and bearing witness is here for all who cane bare to speak and listen. Time for compassion too, making spaces and moments for quiet, rest, recovery. Please be kind to yourselves and your friends, take a break from it all if you need to and be compassionate to those who need to tune out from it for a bit. Be confident that we have each other’s backs and will act in solidarity when the time comes to take to the streets, the ballot box, the legislative chambers, the courts and be creative with our voices in music, song, dance and visual arts. Our bodies are sacred are to be honoured as the vessel of the soul, meeting this moment with our most sacred selves will invite more of the divine energy we will need in and from each other to shift these moments into the tsunami of change being called for right now.

At Womadelaide last night listening to my favourite drummer and his band as they played one of their best known numbers the lead singer said: Change happens by those without short memories. On the eve of International Women’s Day 2021 I pay my respects to all the women who have gone before who have enabled progress by putting their bodies on the line, and to their male allies. The bow is bent, the arrow poised, we are in warrior pose.

NB if you are in Adelaide details of the March 4 Justice can be found here

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

2021 Meeting the Moment #9

The balmy March evening had attracted plenty of moths to the flame, the East End of the city of churches was bursting at the seams. The zero attention being paid by revellers to any kind of physical distancing was a sign of confidence and triumph in public policy, compliance and a lot of luck. The rude health of Adelaide on display for the world to see. There were remnants of bygone times with QR codes on venues and COVID marshalls in hiviz mixed like pepper and salt with Security personnel, but they were the weedy ones, Security were more burly, taller, muscular. How did we get it so good? Here we are again in Festival mode and everything seems right in the bubble we have in this southern extremity of a land at the bottom of the globe, enjoying what the Northern Hemisphere call a Meditteranean climate in mid March where the frangipanis, honeysuckle and jasmin are in the breeze and home brewers can sit in their sheltered verandahs to discuss the variations of barley used in Lime Gose and mid-strength beers. It is the height of privilege.

The lands we are on for these festivals of the arts have never been ceded and past pandemics wiped out whole communities. Some of the viruses came on boats unannounced, others were probably by design and the evidence of purposely impregranted smallbox into blankets ostensibly handed out for warmth, is documented. The land of the red kangaroo Tarntanyangga holds the city together and the colour red continues in the landscape with the creek we call a river named by the colonists as the Torrens and in Kaurna known as Karrawirra Parri, Redgum forest. There are remnant Redgums around the outskirts of the city and you will find groves here and there inside the marked out turf of the surveyed ‘square mile’.

Soon we will all be listening to the sounds of the planet, in the annual musical festival of Womadelaide which has been a tradition for me over many years. This year there will be a celebration of homegrown music, while so many troupes are unable to travel to our place. The celebrations of survival and thriving of voices in first languages will be heard wafting across what is being named King Rodney Park Ityamai-Itpina, in honour of one of the three Kaurna elders present at the proclamation of the colony of South Australia. (If you want to know who King Rodney was check out this podcast).

Past, present and future time fuse and the invitation to meet moments concurrently are offered up in the landscape. How we name and experience the spaces we inhabit time and space with our bodies, our memories, our DNA and entangled epigenetics, and the knowledge that we stardust , is a constant invitation to consider how we move forward as individuals, a community and a species. Wandering around my home town with all the freedom and civility and safety it offers has come at the cost of others and it is not always comfortable, and I am grateful for all the bounty that has come to me, in equal measure.

Treading lightly and keeping an open heart and open ears and eyes to what is in the landscape and the stories held in the bark of those red gums and the in the soil and roots deep down below the surface, invisible to me, is a privilege and one I will try not to take for granted.

May all that is seen and unseen, heard and unheard,

melt into meaning.

May all that is been and becoming, done and undone,

soften our dreaming.

Sparks will fly #10 #cooler

Summer is starting to unfold into autumn and while we are still having warm days, the hint of what is ahead is on the evening breeze. Instead of heating up we are being cooled down. How interesting that the temperature rising in the thermometer is reflected in our language of heating and cooling. Paradoxically, energy levels seem to rise with the cooler weather for me I have felt slow, sluggish and at times almost paralysed by the heat and a heavy heart. Then there are moments of lightness on the breeze, promising a season of more joy and peace. Some of these moments this week: 2,500 women and men gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day, the kindness of a friend to say “I can take that”, the music in the park at Womadelaide, the shelter in a place not my own and the hilarity of exhaustion mixed with a few mils of alcohol to aid brainstorming with peers. There are all encouraging signs of cooling down, a soft wind forecasting a future and change in season.

In the breezes are wafts of hope to replace the aches and weight of what holds sadness in place. The burden of holding onto something that weighs you down is easily lifted if you let something go – it sounds so simple. There is nothing elegant in the putting down though, it is a bluddering, tottering, slipping and sliding movement that eventually finds its way to steadiness and then finally after all the stopping and starting, all the discernment, in a complete movement it is put down.  Not all decisions are invested with this ditheriness, some can be made with swift and certain clarity, deeply secure in the values that hold you in place. But then there are these grey areas, where self-care comes into view and where timing is still not right or perhaps when the burden takes on a weight that is so heavy you can no longer lift it. In that scenario you don’t put the burden down, the burden puts you down and writes you out of the equation.

Brene Brown writes: You can move on, shame. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect. When you know you are loved and belong, you do have the capacity, to invoke David Whyte, to be half a shade braver.  I have a suscipion this bravery walks with truth, and the freedom walking hand-in-hand with truth. I am not sure there is ever a place for truth causing more harm than good. I was listening this week to Prof. Megan Davis talking about a makarrata (a Yolngu word meaing restoration of peace after a dispute) for Australia. First step in this process is coming to an agreement about the dispute and the costs of that dispute and finding a way for peace to arrive between the disputants. This kind of truth takes up responsiblity, accountability, rights, reform; and spears have been known to be involved. Respect is central, reparation inevitable.  In this season where the breeze is blowing in truth and settling into cooler times, something is brewing in our land where we can move on shame.

What truths are ours to tell and what are the ones we have to graciously sit out and listen to has been in the airwaves this week. In the wake of the Pell prosecution, those continuing to be traumatised both from their own experience and vicariously are the ones to speak and to be heard. The eloquence of Clare Linane against the likes of commentors like Andrew Bolt to bring her ongoing truth as a supporter to survivors of abuse. Clare is a relentless mental health advocate for her community of Ballarat which has a suicide rate for men 65% higher than the national average. She speaks on behalf of the families including her own who live everyday on the front line witnessing and aiding those who are surviving trauma of sexual abuse. Victims must always be believed, the shame of coming forward to state your truth, takes courage and we must be strong alongside of them, to bring our love and solidarity, to walk with them, knowing our imperfections signal our own bravery.

There are so many stains, and in the tradition of Lent which finds itself in autumn in the southern hemisphere, we have an invitation to turn back, to repent. At the macro level, there is a national election in the breeze, with the potential to promise a makarrata; we have more discourse to be had around the mental health of those impacted by abuse. And in our individual experience, as each day gets cooler, we have the reckoning and turning around invitations to come closer to the centre of truths we don’t want to face.

I doubt I am alone in being disturbed by the Angel of Justice and am trusting the Angel of Encouragement is flapping her wings around us all.

May the Angel of Encouragement confirm you
In worth and self-respect,
That you may live with the dignity
That presides in your soul. – John O’Donohue excerpt from A Blessing of Angels

Sparks will fly, and while flames grow wider and eat up all that is combustible, what is not consumed, is left charred and still with the scars of having writhed in pain. Once cooled, relisient and death defying remains … remain.

Dignity and hope at least then have a chance then to arrive in the aftermath as the work of healing begins.

 

Promises to tomorrow #8 Senses and Sensibilities

The WOMADelaide 2017 app is now available for downloading. A simple piece of advice full of texture, colour, sound, sights, smells and diversity. Without the app those qualities of WOMAD would still be there, and when the app isn’t ready to be downloaded you can still peek in to what is offering through the magic of the webpage … but there is something abut downloading the app that brings it all home and you can begin to plan what journey you will make over the Sounds of the Planet weekend in March once again.

There are decisions to be made and Spoilt for Choice moments are matched with Fear of Missing Out syndrome.

The rich blend that is WOMADelaide draws me in year after year finding ways to connect in novel and surprising ways – over a bump in a queue, a trample over someone’s marked out space, a melting of bodies in a dusty dance floor, the inevitable serendipitous hello with an old acquaintance in the toilet block, furious attention to liaison points between acts and of course the never to be forgotten moment that comes when it is time to share the world’s best organic donut as part of the annual voracious worship in the food court. WOMADelaide is a sign of what our planetary community could be like everyday – a multicultural fused better version of ourselves in a market place where the currency is trust and deposited are made in the micro banking world of rugs placed under Moreton Bay Fig trees and territories of tribes with porous borders so children can safely roam without the benefit of adults having a child protection check, police check or health check documentation on hand to oversee the play space.

WOMADelaide gives me hope. It tells me there are other ways of being a community. It reminds me that music, dance, conversing about our planet, honouring the ancient cultures, experiencing new and emerging cultures are ways of being and becoming. When the stars shine and the moon finds it way across the night sky on the first evening of WOMADelaide, I am being invited once again into four days and nights of opening up to my senses and the sensibilities of our common humanity – and the one thing we all have in common is the planet we live on.

My promise to tomorrow WOMADelaide offers each year is the promise of being a cultural custodian and the culture I want to have custody of is one where you can put your rug out on a lawn and there is no fear it is going to be whipped away; one where you are invited to join a table if there is a spare seat and even if there isn’t one you can find one to join in; where conversations are hosted and some how it doesn’t matter who is sitting at the table the conversation continues whether you are there or not; where the music wafts around you and soaks into one of your sensory orifices unfiltered by your conscious mind.

The app is now on the phone, and my choices don’t really matter when tomorrow sounds so promising. Looking forward to putting on my 2017 four day pass-port to global citizenship.

Womadelaide 4 day pass

Womadelaide 4 day pass

 

Viva Sister Moon

Dear Sor Juana,

The moon rose over my city last night and the park grooved along to a Cuban beat, ageing bodies on the stage and all around me, rhythmically responding to the full moon with whole heartedness.

I am so grateful for the Latin influences in my life, you being one of them Sor Juana. There is a spirit of abandon and celebration that recognises the waxing and waning, newness and fullness that comes with the Latin spirit. There is something about the groove that finds me moving in an out almost on the spot but not really going too far from my centre.

Tomorrow the day will dawn on another International Women’s Day and while I am grateful to the men in my life, it is the women who sustain me time and time again. A dear friend last night remarked on the reliability of Sister Moon. The lunar cycle connects women, one and all – married, single, celibate, premenstrual, post menopausal – we all have a little knowledge of what it is like to wax and wane, be new and be full.

Womadelaide 4 day pass

Womadelaide 4 day pass

As usual March begins and we are spoilt in Adelaide, Writers Week, Festival and Fringe, International Women’s Day breakfast (largest in the country from one the smallest capital cities selling out in one week) and of course Womadelaide. The full moon was the appropriate expression of the planet over our city last night! I am filled up and over flowing with the riches of these days and nights. New ideas are brewing, incubating and in time will be birthed!

There was Omara Portunondo jiving and singing her heart out, almost refusing to leave the stage. In her mid-eighties, I am inspired to sing and dance my way into the future as well. Viva Cuba! Viva Bueno Vista Social Club! Viva Sister Moon!

Moon over Womad

Moon over Womad

Dancing with Omara

Dancing with Omara

Amandla! Mandela

Dear Hildegard, I want to share some memories with you about South Africa and Mandela. Hearing the news today of his death has reminded me of so many things ….

I remember coming into Cape Town and being so sea sick that I couldn’t get off the ship. I was 11.  I could see Table Mountain and I knew it was Africa and in another ten days or so we would be home in Australia.

I remember the day the Springboks played in Adelaide – it was my first year in High School and the match had to be abandoned.  Those protesters heralded the beginning of the sporting boycott of South Africa. Proud I lived in a city that began that act of solidarity.

I remember going to dinners, marches, putting up posters, organising prayer services, talking to friends, selling raffle tickets, singing songs of freedom, learning all the words of God Bless Africa to support the end of apartheid.

I remember meeting Leah Tutu in Adelaide and asking her how does she keep going when her husband was constantly facing death threats and always so close to trouble and tragedy. She told me – I dance, we dance.

I remember staying up all night to see Mandela released from prison and having the ABC satellite loose transmission just a few moments before it happened because Mandela’s release was delayed.

I remember taking the family to the city for a peace march to celebrate Mandela’s release. I did not want our children to miss the moment. I wanted to be a part of history.

I remember crying and dancing the day Mandela became President and hearing him say Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (Marianne Williamson).  I remember this being printed off in my office and carrying it around with me for years as a constant reminder to be courageous and in the light.

I remember being in Perth Airport and seeing a very tired and, I thought, inebriated, Kerry O’Brien heading off to South Africa to interview Mandela. I was on my way to Mozambique and would be passing through Johannesburg.

I remember being in Johannesburg and going to Alexandra and being shocked by the poverty on one side of the road and the wealth on the other. I remember the energy of the student and church activists who kept me company that day.

I remember searching for the new South African flag in the market in J’burg so I could bring it home to keep reminding me how a new nation was finally re-born and a flag no longer outlawed.

I remember driving Donald Woods to an event at Annesley College and the hall was packed to the rafters and he mainly wanted to talk to me about Australian cricket. The irony of the ordinary passions amidst the politics of sheer survival caused me to chuckle!

I remember feeling proud of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons, with former PM Malcolm Fraser making real and important contributions to bring about peace and to stand with the people of South Africa. I always felt this was one of the finest acts of the Commonwealth. It also rehabilitated Fraser for me as I had lost all respect for him back in 1975!

I remember being inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and seeing Tutu cry night after night in hearing the evidence. I was so inspired by this magnificent restorative justice experience.

I remember singing all the songs on Freedom is Coming over and over again until everyone in the house knew every word.

I remember getting a beautiful copy from the dearest of friends of Long Walk to Freedom – a coffee table version – chosen so all the photos could be seen and shared easily with the children.

I remember being in Glasgow and a South African delegation thanking me as an Australian for standing shoulder to shoulder with black South Africa to help end apartheid. I felt a fraud for the little I had done and humbled to receive their thanks – two of them had been imprisoned for their politics.  I remember seeing in the Glasgow Town Hall a thank you note from Mandela to the people of Scotland that same trip and it bore the date of my birthday.

I remember going to Mandela’s house 8115 Vilakazi Street, Orlando, Soweto the womb in which many of his earliest thoughts and plans were made.  The only street in the world where two Nobel Prize winners have lived.

I remember going to the Hektor Pietersen Museum and being so inspired by the youthfulness of protest and the courage of school students.

I remember being in the Apartheid Museum and learning for the first time that I had seen more footage on my television on what had been going on in South Africa, than many of the South Africans themselves because of the censorship.  I remember the tablecloth on which the ideas and constitutional changes were etched.

I remember being on the Parliament House balustrade in Pretoria and buying stamps that commemorated Mandela’s Presidency and a few year’s later being in Cape Town and walking through the doors of the National Parliament and seeing the fruits of democracy on the walls and in the conversations.

I remember walking the labyrinth in Cape Town behind Tutu’s St Georges Cathedral and marking each step for the long walk South Africa had behind it as well as the one in front of it.

I remember listening to the former political prisoner at Robben Island tell the story of what it was like to be there and the University they created to support and keep learning together. Mandela taught his fellow prisoners.

I remember the District 6 Museum and being delighted with the storyteller and the generosity of the tales of hope and resilience as well as nonviolent resistance in the harshest and dehumanising of circumstances.

I remember sitting next to one of the great elders of the trade union movement at dinner and being so honoured to be in his company while presenting at a conference on democracy for Gaetung Province. How amazing it was to have this opportunity and he thanked me for all Australia had done to help end.

I remember in 2012 being sad to say goodbye once again to South Africa and wondering when I might be back. I am very grateful that one of my now adult children had a taste by coming with me on that trip. He was 5 at the rally when Mandela had been released.

I remember listening to Johnny Clegg at WOMADelaide and enjoying every single minute of his talk and his band. It was my WOMADelaide highlight that year.

I remember all the South Africans I have met in South Africa and around the world. I remember their kindness and patience with me. Their love of their country and that they will be mourning for Mandiba in their own ways and for their own reasons.

These and many more memories of my little thread of connection to the story of Mandela and his beautiful country have been flooding back.  I wept when I heard the news. I gave thanks for his life. I pray for the future of South Africa. I have always felt that while there was breath in his body, it was an insurance for the whole country to protect and to guide.  I pray that his spirit will inspire a new generation of activists who will understand that there can never be peace without justice.

I am ashamed that I came to learn more about racism from South Africa first before I came to know it closer to home in my own country and community. But I am grateful I was able to apply some of those lessons. The lesson of solidarity is what I learnt most from being a tiny part of the anti-apartheid movement.

It was the words of Bonhoeffer that added to my understanding of solidarity:

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists, and I was neither so I did not speak out.  Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

And so this day I am in solidarity with all those who mourn Mandela’s death and celebrate his life.  I will do a dance to the Soweto Gospel choir, sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, ‎ unhaul the flag, look over my photos and books, send messages to friends in South Africa and say a prayer for his family and his country, and raise my hand with a fist – Amandla!

Sunset in Pilansberg

Sunset in Pilansberg