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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

NORPA hears it from the Horse’s Mouth

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In a groundbreaking partnership led by emerging Aboriginal artists, Horse’s Mouth is an artistic exchange between NORPA and Beyond Empathy. The project brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island artists from across regional Australia and is inspired by their stories, place and their lived experiences of today.

When actor, dancer and performer Kirk Page moved to Lismore to join Northern Rivers Performing Arts (NORPA) as Associate Director in 2016, he seeded a connection between leading regional theatre company NORPA and regional community arts and cultural development company Beyond Empathy.

In just a few conversations, the two companies quickly realised they were faced with an opportunity to combine NORPA’s expertise in devising and presenting inventive performance works, and Beyond Empathy’s community development practice, working with disenfranchised groups in an artist-led process.

Together, the partnership inspires boldness and innovation and creates a space for new voices to emerge.

Story continues beneath photos

Photos Tree Faerie

Exceptional young artists from regional NSW, QLD, VIC and WA brought their diverse talents and stories to the project. Artists included NAISDA alumni Johnny Brown (Anawin), Shae Duncan (Gamilaraay), Karwin Knox (Gomeroi/Kamilaroi), Ryan Pearson (Biripi/Minang/Bulang/Baladgung) alongside Lillian Banks (Yawuru), Carmel Vale (Gumbaynggirr), Jaymen ‘Jwalk’ Drahm (Yidinji, Mamu), Emily Roberts-Field (Widjabul), Sarah Roberts-Field (Widjabul), and NORPA Associate Artist Mitch King (Yaegl).

In February 2017, the talented group of artists came together on Bundjalung country for the first creative development of Horse’s Mouth. Over the four-day intensive, they danced, shared stories, laughed and connected, building foundations as a group for the continued development of the work.

The second creative development ran over two weeks (May 22 – June 2) and culminated in an open studio, work-in-progress showing on last Friday.

Horse’s Mouth is an opportunity for young emerging Indigenous artists from across regional Australia to get a feel for what it’s like to work in a professional environment’, says Page.

‘A big part of that is creating a space where the young emerging artists can talk about their experiences.  This takes time and it can be challenging.  We are learning as we go. They are teaching me about what they need. Horse’s Mouth is an artistic exchange.’

You can find out more about Beyond Empathy at: www.be.org.au, and keep up with NORPA’s program here: www.norpa.org.au.


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