Image by Perth Festival
Words by Camila Egusquiza
It is rare to find a performance that will make you reflect, laugh, and cry, all at the same time. A Day of Ideas did this and so much more.
Block B: How Good’s Australia started with a panel discussion about African hair and the experiences African women encounter in regard to this in Western society. “Hair is a superpower”, said Sisonke Msimang, the master of ceremonies for the night and programmer of the show. The panel was composed of three women of various ages and backgrounds.
The panellists talked about how they came to embrace their hair in a society that doesn’t know how to respect African hair. It was enlightening to hear their journey and the struggles they went through growing up. This discussion felt like a celebration of who they are and how their hair contributes to their identity. “I can create a universe out of my hair”, said Linda Iriza, one of the panellists.
We then moved on to a conversation about generosity- starring people from various organisations around Perth that give back to the community. We learned about the connections these panellists have made and how important these connections have become to them. The highlight of this panel was, Fama Toure, a footy star who delighted the audience with her enthusiasm for sports and how being in a mentor programme has inspired her day-to-day life.
Image by Camila Egusquiza
The next round of guests entered the stage dancing! They talked about how dance and music have become a part of community outreach, and for some, it has helped them reconnect with their culture.
The party then moved outside for a quick dinner break accompanied by more music and dancing that got the audience hyped for the next block.
I have to admit I was not prepared for the rollercoaster of emotions I had during Block C: Love, Punk and Rugby. This block was a collection of anecdotes told by different storytellers.
The first performer to set foot on stage was Nobuo Hara, an athlete and well-known member of the deaf community in Perth. Nobuo told us his complicated – yet also funny – journey to play for the Perth Rams rugby team. It is important to note that a sign language interpreter was not only present during his performance but also throughout the whole day. It was refreshing to see a solid commitment from the arts to make their performances more accessible to everybody.
Colin Archibald of Jamaican background, then took the stage to tell us about his story of growing up in England and the challenges he faced. Colin took us through a childhood story that has stayed with him up to this day. He retold how he experienced racism, how his peers would say: “There’s no black in the Union Jack,” as if the colour of his skin made him less entitled to call England home. At the end of the performance, Colin stated with great pride: “I will never be ashamed for being black again.”
Simone Detourbet then told us the story of what it was like to grow up in a big family as a middle child. We got to understand the pressure that was put on her due to the circumstances like how she had to grow up at a young age, and how, eventually, she learned to say no and focus on herself, not just on her family.
After her performance, a leather jacket was put on a chair. Next to it was Neil Fernandes, a founding member of the punk band The Mannikins, who is now a public servant in the education department. Neil delighted us by making us laugh out loud with his punk rock stories (and yes, the leather jacket was a vital part of his story).
Nadia Heisler was the last performance of the night, and the one who made me cry the most. Nadia is a Brazilian immigrant who moved to Australia in 2011. She started off as a backpacker hoping for success in the land down under. Nadia first made us laugh with her retelling of all the jobs she had to endure when she first moved here. We learned about the ex-boyfriend whose favourite food was a McDonald’s Big Mac (Yes, you are reading that right. A McDonald’s Big Mac). We also learned about a beautiful boy she fell in love with and how she had to let him go due to all the complications in her life. However, Nadia’s story has a happy ending. She ended up marrying that beautiful boy she had to let go of, and they are now expecting a child together. Did I mention that I was crying like a baby by the end of her story?
A Day of Ideas made me laugh, cry, and contemplate the struggles people of colour and immigrants face when coming or living in a Western Country. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to attend this event. The amount of dedication all the performers put into the event was astronomical. From the wonderful and witty enthusiasm of Sisonke Msimang, every time she introduced a guest or asked a question, to the passion present in the storytellers’ performance, A Day of Ideas will be a day that stays with me forever, and I am sure it has indeed generated many ideas amongst the audience.