Per­for­mance cul­ture has heal­ing pow­ers

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page -

A LO­CAL au­thor is shin­ing a spot­light on Nyun­gar per­for­mance.

Distin­guished Pro­fes­sor at Curtin Uni­ver­sity and award-win­ning his­to­rian Anna Hae­bich has just re­leased Danc­ing in Shad­ows: His­to­ries of Nyun­gar Per­for­mance, the first com­pre­hen­sive look at Nyun­gar per­for­mance cul­ture and the heal­ing and re­silience it cre­ates.

“It’s the first his­tory of an epic jour­ney that his­tory for­got, about how the rich Nyun­gar per­for­mance cul­ture has pro­vided a life­line for Nyun­gar peo­ple to sur­vive the catas­tro­phe of coloni­sa­tion against the odds,” Prof Hae­bich said.

“You won­der how the cul­ture was passed on un­der so much pres­sure.

“We re­alised (per­for­mance is) all about heal­ing.”

Prof Hae­bich said the book had been four or five years in the mak­ing, with her re­search tak­ing her well be­yond books and pa­pers.

“I’m used to look­ing at doc­u­ments; a lot of his­to­ri­ans find it dif­fi­cult to move on,” she said.

The au­thor spoke to hun­dreds of peo­ple, in­clud­ing singer Gina Wil­liams, about their sto­ries and work to keep Nyun­gar lan­guage up and run­ning.

“Gina was a jazz singer in Lon­don, and thought ‘what can I do that’s spe­cial?’,” Prof Hae­bich said.

“She started to sing in Nyun­gar and she said it felt like the air was sucked out of the room.”

Prof Hae­bich said it was a great hon­our to be able to put the book to­gether, trac­ing an­cient fam­ily lin­eages now liv­ing in city sub­urbs and coun­try towns and con­tin­u­ing to per­form to cel­e­brate their an­ces­tors.

“It’s scratch­ing the sur­face; there’s so much more to be writ­ten,” she said.

The book is out now from UWA Pub­lish­ing.

Pic­ture: Will Rus­sell­mu­ni­ d481328

Pro­fes­sor Anna Hae­bich with her lat­est book.

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