APATA – The Australian Performing Arts Teachers Association

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Cultural Stories Onstage

Posted by APATA | Sep 18, 2019

When it comes to telling cultural stories on stage, how the story is being told, who is telling the story and what impact the story has on audiences is a carefully considered and mindful art form. In the performing arts today what does the cultural landscape across the realm of performing arts look like? Who are the leaders and what is their drive and ambition for the art of cultural storytelling?

Storytellers, in many cultural presentations, carry lessons across generational lines, where stories preserve traditional customs, but they also look to confront contemporary issues. Historic stories document and illuminate the physical past, while creation stories establish origin of life and values.

Education stories teach etiquette, lessons and morals while healing stories make an impact on the wounds caused by the past or present and seek to make a positive return to strength, faith, tradition and family. The act of storytelling is also healing in itself by giving a voice to the lost and silent.

Overall cultural stories reflect the cycle of life. The resilience of storytelling throughout the ages gives us the key to another time, and culture illustrating the lives and values of a people and their heritage. Storytelling acknowledges the past while living in the present and preserving for the future and can be accessed across many art forms including dance, song, music, fine arts, theatre, film and digital application. Cultural stories provoke a power to change, influence and create understanding while activating all the senses and emotions.

From one generation to the next the importance of keeping culture strong, by sharing knowledge, gathering to learn a deeper understanding and going back to your roots to replenish soul with family and where you come from, is a connection to identity.

The onstage landscape of cultural storytelling in Australia is diverse as we celebrate, learn from others as well as lament with our country’s first people. The inherited responsibility of all traditional storytellers globally is to ensure their people’s narrative is heard and shared with future generations.

2019 celebrates the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019). In 2016 the United nations reported that 40% of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing, with the majority of these being indigenous languages, putting the cultures and knowledge systems to which they belong at risk. In terms of Indigenous Australian languages, more than 250 Indigenous Australian languages including 800 dialectal varieties were spoken on the continent at the time of European settlement in 1788. Today only 13 traditional Indigenous languages are still acquired by children. Approximately another 100 or so are spoken to various degrees by older generations, with many of these languages at risk as Elders pass away.

Over the coming months we look forward to exploring teachers and leaders that connect country through the values of performing arts and what drives them to weave, shape and share cultural performance that is powerful, distinctive, provoking and completely defining with unique soundscapes, design and story.

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