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TEN DAYS ON THE ISLAND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Expanded Horizons – travels through lutruwita Tasmania
It’s sheer pleasure to travel through the landscapes of lutruwita Tasmania, and thanks to COVID-19, and while we have the place all to ourselves – temporarily – it seems an even more sumptuous experience. Over the last weeks and months, it has been a delightful part of my work developing the 2021 Festival to visit artists and communities across the island, to explore some of the most spectacular, alluring and fascinating places I’ve ever been. Checking back over my calendar, I’ve clocked up some significant kilometres, mostly on vast stretches of road with barely any other cars in sight.
Because our office is in Burnie, and our Festival is pan-Tasmanian, the Ten Days on the Island team moves around quite a lot between the North West, Launceston and the North and Hobart and the South. And in recent weeks I’ve met people in Zeehan, Stanley, Strahan, Queenstown, Rowella, Ross, New Norfolk, Lake St Clair (well OK, that was for my birthday), Mt Roland, Longford and Westbury.
Each region is SO different, and the roads between them such a celebration of some of the world’s most diverse, pristine and magnificent landscapes. I can feel myself relaxing into, and falling more in love with, Tasmania in all its complexity. With every journey, though, I find myself increasingly thrown off balance by the names of towns and sites adopted from 19th century England, Scotland and Wales, names which were clearly assigned to remind the settlers of the homes they left far behind, in the process usually obliterating the original names, voices and stories of these places.
How amazing would it be if Tasmania, (like Wales, New Zealand, Belgium and other places) gazetted both, or where the original language sounds are lost, used palawa language and place names front and centre, so that people discovering the landscape can also discover how those words sound in place.
Living and working up here in the North West of Tasmania, every day I sense around me the relationship of each place to the original custodians of the lands, waters, animals and stories. We look forward to sharing new and old stories through language and cultural experiences with our audience and community, starting with mapali, the first event of Ten Days on the Island 2021 at dawn on the Burnie foreshore. It has been exciting this week to hear from Vernon Guest, our Executive Producer, about how ideas and plans for this event are developing under the guidance of cultural leader Dave mangenner Gough. As always, this work begins in place, visiting the site, imagining the experience we want to create and share. It’s a special time, full of potential and, in these uncertain times, hope for bringing people together again in celebration of our community’s resilience and recovery.
The poetic term ‘a sense of place’ is flung around so generically that risks being clichéd, but I can’t argue with Hugh Mackay’s comment that ‘place is crucial to all Australians. It is fundamental to the human sense of self, sense of community, sense of mortality and sense of destiny.’ This is what I’m experiencing in my travels – a way of truly sensing this place. There are many more road trips in the coming weeks for me and the Ten Days’ team – I can’t wait!