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In November 2014, Further Arts created a unique and exciting event with Chief Filip Talevu and members of his community in Emyotungan village, West Ambrym – the Emyo Tinyo Dance & Music Festival to exchange and celebrate local Ambrym and Melanesian kastom and cultures – the first of its kind on this island.

The event hosted 30 talented contemporary and traditional dancers and musicians from around Ambrym island, other islands of Vanuatu, and Melanesian countries, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Caledonia, West Papua and Solomon Islands.  Thirteen of these performance artists were invited to participate with the support of Queensland Art Gallery l Gallery of Modern Art based in Brisbane, Australia, as part of the development of a project exploring Melanesian performance for ‘The Eighth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT8) 2015-2016.  Alliance Française Port Vila and Fondation Suzanne Bastien also supported four Vanuatu-based performers and artists to attend the festival.

Through music, dance and artistic cultural collaboration over four days, participants exchanged songs, beats and movements, culminating in a combined performance piece that was presented to the communities of West Ambrym during a one-day festival.  Each dance displayed elements of kastom and tradition from their country of origin, sometimes fused with more contemporary styles and rhythms.

The festival also included activities such as local cooking and craft demonstrations, a traditional kastom song and dance performed by elders and chiefs, dance workshops, sand drawing in the black ash-based ground, and the always captivating fire dancing.

Participants of the workshops and performances shared very positive feedback on the event. One of the Fijian contemporary dance professionals, Katalina, expressed that “The workshop has been tremendously hard!  I’ve learnt so much, and this has been an experience that I’m going to keep and share with my children and everyone.”  Community members from West Ambrym villages were also impressed by the festival – a community leader stated that “Our kastom here is always the same.  We have not brought it to another level to keep it alive, but by working with some new ideas that have come out of the festival, we will be able to improve upon our practices and performances.”

Photos of the event can be found on the Further Arts Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FurtherArts

Additionally, a short promotional clip was edited by TEKS crew member, Nicky Kuautonga: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pRYzCR75fs

The TEKS production crew have since been working on producing a short film about the event for local release, while the curatorial team at QAGOMA prepare material for the prominent APT8, opening in November 2015, which will feature the performers and elements of the event in Ambrym: www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/exhibitions/upcoming/apt8

And just last month, leader of TEKS, Delly Roy, organized the Creative Arts Pikinini workshop in Chapuis area, Santo island. Over three creatively inspiring days, ten children from urban and rural areas of Santo together with their parents worked on incredible pieces of artwork with the guidance of artistic leaders and an educational representative from Luganville.  They played with colours, materials, and found objects to create original paintings and 3D art that represented some part of their individual identities, cultures or customs.  The workshop also included a field trip to Fanafo village, the site of the indigenous kastom movement lead by the late Jimmy Stevens, to learn about the importance of kastom and identity through Fanafo’s story.

The TEKS production crew documented the event through photography (see the album on Further Arts Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FurtherArts)

This workshop was a small step towards fulfilling the TEKS Unit’s vision of a local art gallery for all artists to display and market their artwork.