Bran Nue Dae By Aboriginal Writer Jimmy

Chi Essay, Research Paper

The Community Theatre play Bran Nue Dae, into which Asian-aboriginal writer/composer/director Jimmy Chi incorporated his own life experiences of relationships, drugs and the law, abused indigenous land rights, self discovery and religion, achieved it’s goal to express the message of aboriginal perspective of everyday social issues. This successful and effective production satisfies the goals of community theatre, giving the aboriginal people a voice through theatre and song, thus fulfilling Chi’s purpose for expressing common human values and relationships despite differing race. Inspiring a new step in contemporary indigenous theatre, Bran Nue Dae has delivered an entertaining message to audiences throughout Australia. This play was written to comply with Chi s own goals as well as those of Community Theatre.

Bran Nue Dae produced certain goals of which were expected to be achieved through the drama form and goals of Community Theatre. Community Theatre was introduced as dramatic performances for local communities. Within these communities, social issues which corresponded with the people of that area became targeted and established a particular political statement; a statement that, through the plays of community theatre, sent a clear message to it s audience. Giving people a voice through theatre serves as one of many goals of community theatre. The main goal of Australian community theatre is based under the basic right of all Australians to have access to some form of theatre and the creation of theatre. Hence, the goals to provide everyday people with an alternative to broadcasted television network entertainment and the establishment of new styles of performing, new working methods, more relevant content within the plays and differing styles of working outdoors. The goals of Community Theatre were incorporated into Jimmy Chi s own goal of voicing his message throughout Australian communities. Thus, Bran Nue Dae was written, focusing on the message of personal journey immersed in social issues through which Aborigines in Western Australia have travelled. “Everybody is related. The play has a lot of biblical references to show what our journey is about. We need to search for our common humanity to make a better world ” (Jimmy Chi) Through the journey and self discovery of young aboriginal Willie, and reflecting most of Chi s own personal experiences in life, the audience travels with him throughout each social issue he faces along the way.

The goals and success of Community Theatre and Bran Nue Dae are effectively achieved through the issues and events incorporated into the play as well as Jimmy Chi s message which is instilled throughout the play s issues in it s songs, characters and script. Bran Nue Dae begins and focuses the main attention on Willie, the young aboriginal school boy rebelling against his teachers and superiors in his Catholic school run by European priests. This introduces the first issue within the early aboriginal generations when the policy of Assimilation was practiced, which was the influence of European tradition upon the indigenous students as a means to smudge the aboriginal identity. Through the song Nothing I would rather be (p15), Willie s rebellion against this issue and his acknowledgment of abused indigenous land rights brings forward the message of aboriginal exploitation- an issue for which writer Jimmy Chi sought to express his opinions on. The song s quality has appealed equally to white Australians: its tunes are infectious and celebratory, creating a tension with the words, which expresses both defiance of their situation as a colonised people; and an ironic self-accusation for accepting it. Throughout the play, Australia s standing on racism is a theme used in the play not so much commented on but a definite message from the writer and his own experience with his own nationality. I knew I was black but I don t like being called black, because I also know I m Chinese and I m Japanese and I m Scottish. I associate with the Aboriginal side more than I do with my Chinese and Japanese heritage, probably because I know more about it. Most of all I m Australian…One of the big things is coming to terms with your own philosophy of life, because I remember saying to myself: Why was I born? Why does the world go round? Why, why, why? (Jimmy Chi). Willie then leaves his school and with his guiding friend Tadpole, he travels to his homeland in Lombadina (Broome). Along the way, the pair find themselves facing integrated themes and issues of Tadpole s current homelessness (p18 and 19), their run in with the law and drug abuse (p30 to 35) and broken marriages (p70). Another element of Community Theatre within Bran Nue Dae is the diverse way in which issues are presented in the play. In many cases, humour adds to the effectiveness to such issues as relationships and sexuality, for which the song Seeds that you might sow (p73) humorously presents awareness of safe sex and contraception. For issues such as religion (p27), family reconciliation (p76) and aboriginal traditions (p45 and 58), Jimmy Chi s main goal of presenting his message of common human values and a multicultural voice become clear. I ve found help all along the way, from white and black and every colour…an example to the rest of the world – and Australia – on how to live with each other. And that s what we re all trying to do (Jimmy Chi). Chi s own view of life s journey and self discovery holds a strong connection with Bran Nue Dae. As a young Aboriginal-Asian scholar in Broome, Western Australia, Jimmy felt the pressures of society on his race, intellect, relationships and his own direction in life. Despite the dilemma of mental illness, Chi wrote Bran Nue Dae with his band Knuckles as a musical which emerged in 1989 from one of the most remote parts of Australia: the port of Broome on the North-West coast. The songs have become anthems for Aboriginal people: a rare unifying force for empowerment. What audiences respond to is the way the play invites them in to share the joy, the outlook and the resilient humour; through the music, which is a felicitous conflation of every style ever heard on a transistor radio in the bungalows of Broome. Bran Nue Dae presents an effective and successful portrayal of social issues within the indigenous Australian community, thus achieving Jimmy Chi s goals of such a Community Theatre play.

Thus in conclusion it can be seen that Community Theatre holds goals of which Jimmy Chi s play Bran Nue Dae successfully and effectively achieves along with his own. Through social issues that apply to the indigenous persons of the Australian community, an aboriginal perspective is portrayed to illustrate the common human values and a common voice and relationship held within each Australian despite his or her race. Bran Nue Dae has inspired, challenged and delighted audiences all over Australia and played a significant role in the development and direction of contemporary Indigenous performance as well as successfully achieve goals of Community Theatre and presenting Jimmy Chi s message of common human values.


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