Double Bill: Culture Evolves + Kisiskâciwan
Brent Watkins and Jeanette Kotowich
Culture Evolves: Brent Watkins
Co-commissioned and presented by YIRRAMBOI, VicHealth and Arts House
Kisiskâciwan: Jeanette Kotowich
Presented by YIRRAMBOI and Arts House
Friday 5 – Saturday 6 May 2023
90 minutes, including short interval
YIRRAMBOI Fan $35
A small transaction fee will be charged per order.
Contains loud music, sound effects and vibration. Scent: sage, talc and eucalyptus.
Culture Evolves contains voices of deceased, and themes of suicide, trauma and deaths in custody. Contains coarse language.
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St,
From Naarm to Saskatchewan, discover the latest in First Nations contemporary dance in this double bill by Brent Watkins and Jeanette Kotowich.
Culture Evolves by Brent Watkins
Culture Evolves combines traditional dance, hip-hop and music to explore the historical account of a Gunnai Kurnnai man Boondjil Noorook travelling from the Bogong Moth ceremonies to 90 Mile Beach in Gippsland.
The YIRRAMBOI show will be the first in an ongoing series of collaborations that will develop and revive the Bogong Moth ceremony. The guiding force behind this revival is the insightful testimonies of Gunnai/Kurnnai Elders as well as historical records, and these feed into a powerful performance rich with contemporary resonance.
The use of modern artforms brings home the ongoing relevance of the Bogong Moth ceremony to today’s society, highlighting the cultural significance of the moth in Gunnai/Kurnnai society and its role as a keystone species in South Eastern Australian ecosystems.
Kisiskâciwan by Jeanette Kotowich
A creative return to the fast-flowing landscape of Saskatchewan, the robust and undulating land of Jeanette Kotowich’s great-grandmothers and great-great-grandfathers, Kisiskâciwan is a journey to one’s self. Through dance it speaks to a Métis cultural narrative of identity and home.
Through memories of childhood summers embraced by the valley of Kah-tep-was (Nêhiyaw for “river that calls”), Jeanette evokes the lasting impression left by the vast, inspiring prairie and the gently rolling hills. Kah-tep-was is a 2-kilometre wide, 180-metre deep valley, a sacred place that calls generations of peoples for gathering, hunting, and spiritual replenishment.
“We believe through actively practicing our culture, we can preserve and maintain our connection to Country. It is through teaching the wisdom imparted from our ancestors and performing ceremony, that we create a stronger and healthier sense of identity in Aboriginal people.” – Culture Evolves
I create work that reflects Nêhiyaw/Métis [Turtle Island] cosmology within the context of contemporary dance and Indigenous futurism. I am working from de-colonial perspectives, land-base research, creative embodiment and collaboration; my work references Spirit, land and ancestral knowledge. My practice is intergenerational and vocational; it’s a living and lived experience.
The title of my work Kisiskâciwan means swift flowing river or landscape in Nêhiyawêwin. It is invoked by memories of my childhood summer, embraced by the Kah-tep-was (Nêhiyaw for river that calls) valley, the vast prairie and gently rolling landscape has echoed its lasting impression and whispered a language of inspiration. Kah-tep-was is a two-kilometre wide, 180-metre deep valley is a sacred place that calls generations of peoples for gathering, hunting, and spiritual replenishment. – Jeanette Kotowich
About the artists
Culture Evolves is a privately owned company that utilises traditional Aboriginal dance, songs, lore and modern dance to highlight the importance of social justice and social ecology in today’s society from a First Nations perspective. Their goal is to preserve and nurture the importance of Aboriginal cultural identity in the community, through dance performances, education workshops, community art projects and cultural consultancy.
Brent is a dancer (traditional/hip hop), didgeridoo player and visual artist, who has established himself in the Melbourne cultural arts scene over the past decade. Brent is a Gunai Kurnai man from southeastern Victoria, with Noongar Yamatji ancestry from WA. He currently resides on Wurrundjeri and Boon Wurrung land in Narm, what is commonly referred to as the City of Melbourne. Brent gets his inspiration from his Nan, Rita Watkins:, “growing up seeing her fight for Country and our people and a strong Kurni woman. Now it is my responsibly to fight for Country, for my son and generations to come”.
At a young age he began teaching and performing, doing art workshops and playing didgerdoo. In high school he was selling his art around Melbourne and the world with his artwork going to customers in five different countries. When Brent left school he started working at Mia Mia gallery, his first job and which lead him to where he is today. Brent’s next major career step was to create Culture Evolves. Drawing from his ancestral epistemology and combining it with contemporary narratives, Brent conveys the struggles that First Nations people are experiencing in Australia today. Through elements of traditional dance, hip hop and storytelling, Brent has entertained and educated a wide range of audiences from school groups of all ages, local and visiting dignitaries, corporate clients, international world peace meetings, national sporting events and performances with nationally and internationally recognised bands and musicians such as Mulatu Astatke, Coloured Stone and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Sean belongs to the Kuku Nyunkal clan of the Kuku-Yalanji nation of far North Queensland, Cape York. For more than 25 years, his vocation has been the one inherited from his ancestors, - the Black Cockatoo people, the Sunset Ceremonial people, the most easterly group to have used what is now known as didgeridoo. Sean has performed nationally and internationally to a diverse range of audiences, with a wide range of artists and at internationally known events. From performing and choreographing traditional dances to singing traditional songs for ceremonies and modern performances, Sean has spearheaded and created community arts and cultural engagement programs for Local, State and Federal governments in NSW and Queensland. He has also given lectures and conducted workshops on traditional Aboriginal history, science, spirituality, architecture, art and culture to students and academia alike.
Originally from Treaty 4 territory Saskatchewan [Turtle Island], Jeanette Kotowich creates work that reflects Nêhiyaw/Métis cosmology within the context of Indigenous performance, Indigenous futurism and contemporary dance. Her creations have been presented at theatres and festivals across so-called Canada, including Kwê at Matriarchs Uprising and The Dance Centre’s Dance In Vancouver. In the summer of 2020, she conducted land-based research in her home province of Saskatchewan, fusing interdisciplinary collaboration, de-colonial practices and embodied research towards the creation and premiere of Kisiskâciwan which has toured to Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa. During the pandemic, Jeanette’s created a series of short experimental dance films and has been artist-in-residence at Raven Spirit Dance, NAC Indigenous Theatre, and The Dance Centre. She resides as a guest on the Ancestral and unceded Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ/, and Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm territories, colonially known as Vancouver.
Creator & Performer: Brent Watkins
Performers: Sean Ryan, Phillip Egan, Dylan Kerr
Lighting Designer: Alex Nguyen
Cultural Custodian of Lore: Gunai Elder Uncle Wayne Thorpe
Choreographer, Performer & Producer: Jeanette Kotowich
Creative Producer & Outside Eye: Deanna Peters/Mutable Subject
Lighting Design: Alex Nguyen
Original Lighting Design: James Proudfoot
Sound, Fiddle & Vocals: Kathleen Nisbet
Sound: Wayne Lavallee, Moe Clark, Brady Marks
Special thanks to: Graham Kotowich, Lisa Gelley, Raïna Von Waldenburg, Emily Solstice Tait, Stéphanie Cyr, Kelly McInnes, Jono Kim, Sharai Mustatia, Carlos Rivera, Michelle Olson, Charles Koroneho
Culture Evolves has been co-commissioned by YIRRAMBOI and Arts House through the City of Melbourne, and VicHealth. It is supported by Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation.
Kisiskâciwan is supported by Quebec Arts Council, YIRRAMBOI and Arts House through the City of Melbourne.
Left: Jeanette Kotowich, 2022, Photo by Denis Martin
Right: Culture Evolves, Courtesy of the Artist