One 4 All – Karalbo @ Brisbane Powerhouse 16 October 2009
Photo and Review by José Eduardo Cruz
For many reasons, tonight’s offering is nothing short of spectacular. This is theater at its rawest and most natural without the star attitude. The performers are not paid actors, nor are they trained or would they be considered seasoned professionals. Karalbo is a collaboration between several well know Brisbane artists and youths from various cultural backgrounds trying to find their place in an ever-changing society. The motivation behind this project was to present, if only to a few, a stage and an audience to express valuable stories and somehow come to grips with the duality that invariably comes when you are born and raised within a cultural construct and grow up within another predominant cultural construct that will, try as it may, always see you as an outsider.
What makes tonight such a special night is the truth behind every word that is spoken on the stage. The fact that all the stories told on the stage are by people living amongst us makes this event that much more moving to witness.
We are greeted with an Aboriginal welcoming ceremony. Acknowledgement to the original owners and custodians of this land sets the mood for tonight’s proceedings.
Allow me to introduce to you “The King of Africa” also known as Mayar. The King speaks for ten minutes in which he tells a story that brings the entire audience to silence in admiration at the achievements of this young man. Close to ten years ago, at the age of eight he fled his village from armed militia after seeing his family being slaughter only to find himself in the middle of the African savanna to become easy prey to all types of dangers. Hunting rabbits and squirrels he was able to survive and encountered two other children in the same predicament. A lion ambushes the three companions and tragedy inevitably strikes and brings their brief friendship to an abrupt end. The King and his older companion are able to escape only to hear their seven year old friend scream for help after being captured and killed by one of the world’s most proficient predators. Walking days without food or water evading hyenas, they land in Uganda, later transferred to Kenya and finally to Toowoomba, Queensland.
Then there is the grade ten student who is locked up in a local Toowoomba watch house over night for looking suspicious. The reason is still unknown to him or his parents who had to front up to the police station to collect their son. Sadly all the stories find our protagonist in extremely volatile atmospheres or in racist inner Queensland towns. Like the child that during Christmas knocked on his neighbour’s door to wish him a merry Christmas as its customary in his home country, only to be told “Go home you black ***”.
This is not a recital about victims, but a proclamation of joy. Even though these children have experienced such an unimaginable life they don’t for once show sadness. It only takes the beat of a drum and a hum and they are all dancing as if nothing had ever happened.
Tribute is also paid to the victim of the tsunami that destroyed many of our pacific neighbours.
Some of the events told by some of the children demand further action and legal consideration, but tonight is not about investigations, its about celebrations, its about the miracle of life and the celebration of an ever changing Australian society that welcomes multiculturalism, but at times struggles to understands the meaning of that word.
If you ever consider that you have had a bad day due to work, peak hour traffic, or your monitory value in the labor market, consider that your worst day is probably their best.
These children are amazing for having had the strength to tell their stories through such a public medium without any fear. It is commendable work that was achieved by the directors and facilitators to bring this recital from idea to realisation. The next step will be to take this show back to Toowoomba where most of these stories are played out in a daily occurrence.
Reviewed by José Eduardo Cruz