Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and  is marking the achievement with a big focus on the Fringe for 2020. Tandanya will host a “First Nations Hub’ in the upcoming festival. Lucy Kingston spoke to Tandanya CEO Dennis Stokes about the Hub and the Anniversary.

Tandanya was formed in 1989 by a group of people who thought that to maintain culture and highlight culture to the wider community that they would create an organization that was there to be able to perform and showcase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture to Australia really.

And it’s achieved a lot in those 30 years. Looking forward, what do you hope Tandanya might achieve in the upcoming 30 years?!

I think what we want to do in the next 30 years, if I can say that, is make sure that people realize that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is still here, and we are evolving, and although we practice traditional culture, we also have contemporary culture, as well, and we showcase that we survived, and we want to share that with the rest of the world.

When you say culture, is it all kinds, all expressions of culture that Tandanya’s interested in?

Yeah, so Tandanya has a theater, so we do performing arts, we do dance, we do music, visual arts, obviously, so it’s everything to do with the indigenous culture, we want to highlight that.

Thank you. Now in this 30th anniversary year, Tandanya is hosting the very first, First Nations Hub as part of the Adelaide Fringe, can you tell us, what can people expect from the First Nations Hub?

Look, we’ve got a wide variety of things to look at. Yabarra, the dreaming of light is here. Last year it was at the River Torrens, this year it’s going to be inside, so it will start early in the morning and finish later at night, so you can look at that all day over that whole period. There’s theater production, there’s comedy, there’s music. We have a café here. We’re going to utilize that café to make sure that that’s utilized as a First Nations Hub and a place that all the artists, whether they’re performing at Tandanya or not, can come, First Nations people can come and just all be together, and mingle and network, and just be a part of our culture.

Oh, right. So, as well as a performance space for First Nations performers, it’s kind of a … space as well, where people can come and hang out and meet others?

Yeah, so one of the ambassadors for Fringe is Fez Fa’anana. He’s a Polynesian guy, and he’s a brilliant performer. He does cabaret. So, what we’ve got him to do, and what he’s going to do is really work with those artists and bring them in and then we can all sit down and network and talk about what are we going to do as a people, and as a First Nations people within Fringe, and what are we going to do to build on that every year?

And why is Tandanya a good place, do you think, for this First Nations Hub?

Look, it’s the only institute of it’s kind in Australia. It’s a First Nations institute. It is what we should be doing, and it’s what we want to do, so I think it is the place that we should be doing these sorts of things. We’ve got the facilities here, let’s utilize that and let’s bring in the community.

And it’s actually a massive place, isn’t it? As we came in I saw the, you pointed out, the Yabarra being set up. There’s very few spaces that are actually have the capacity for this kind of size of an event.

Yeah, that’s right. It is a massive building. There’s little rabbit warrens everywhere, and we try and utilize every little bit of space that we can, and if we can open that to the community, we know that we can show case everything that we’ve got to offer.

And you’ve mentioned the café there, that’s had a bit of a revival recently, can you tell us a little bit about the Tandanya café.

Yeah, look it’s been closed for two years. I came on about 17 months ago, and one of the things I looked at the café and I said, “Well, let’s re-open this, and let’s really work to get this happening again.” So, we’ve got to that point now. So, during Fringe, it will open permanently, and what we’ve done is, we’re going to utilize it as a place of training, so we’ll work with Tauondi College, which is in Adelaide and use that for hospitality training, but all the menu will actually be inspired by indigenous, well, native ingredients actually, and all the staff will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So, you know, when people come in, they’ll be the people behind the counter.

Now, you’ve mentioned there’s a wide variety of shows on at Tandanya during the Fringe. There’s a couple of theater performances, can you tell us a bit about them? I Don’t Wanna Play House and Daly River Girl.

Yeah, so I Don’t Wanna Play House is by Tammy Anderson, and it’s a semi-autobiographical, I believe. It’s about her life. It’s very powerful. So, Tammy will be performing that. I think there’s three shows, but she’ll also be doing On The Couch with Tammy Anderson, one night, so you can come in and actually sit down and talk to her about her performance. It is a very powerful piece, and people will be blown away by that.

The other piece is Daly River Girl by Tessa Rose, and that’s also about her life. That also is very powerful. I’ve seen it, and you’ll be blown away by that as well.

And I understand every Saturday night of the Fringe there’s something called, Blacklist Cabaret. What’s that one about?

So, that’s with Fez. So, he’s going to be First Nations performers up every night, I think, that’s actually Sunday, so he’ll actually organize a list of performers to come into the space. They may be performing all around Fringe, but he’ll actually bring them into Tandanya, and then he’ll show case them, and then they will talk about their work as well. So, people are actually able to come in and watch it, but they actually can talk to the artists as well.

It’s going to be buzzing here at Tandanya for the Adelaide Fringe. Now, I was here at Tandanya on Sunday, it was the 26th of January, you had the Annual Survival Day event. It’s been at Semaphore for a few years, but it’s come back to Tandanya this year, can you tell us about what Tandanya was trying to do with that event, and how you felt it went.

Yeah, look, it was Survival Day, obviously Australia Day. We wanted to bring the event back into Tandanya because it is our 30th year, so we wanted people to come back into the building and see that it is thriving, it is a living space, so Semaphore’s always been great, but it was time to come back home, and that’s how we felt. So, we had, oh, the numbers I don’t even know, it was that packed, and the performances were amazing, so and with all the art, the café happening, it was just a great day and I think it’ll continue to grow if we stay in this space.

Here’s more about the First Nations Fringe Hub from Tandanya:

TANDANYA FRINGE 2020

INAUGURAL FIRST NATIONS HUB

Celebrating 30 years of Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute

Opening Friday 14th February 2020

2020 marks30 years since Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute was founded and then evolved into South Australia’s focus point for First Nations living cultures from the ancient lands.Tandanya is recognised as Australia’s only First Nations Cultural Institute, situated in Adelaide on Kaurna Country, the land of the Red Kangaroo.

Tandanya announce a celebration of their 30-year anniversary by presenting the inaugural ‘Tandanya Fringe 2020 – First Nations Hub’, as part of the 2020 Adelaide Fringe from Friday February 14th through to Sunday March 15th. The culturally curated program is completely dedicated to First Nations artists and creatives, relaunching the entire space as a hub where artists from local, national and global communities feel welcome to gather together.

“From October 2019 to October 2020, Tandanya is celebrating its 30-year anniversary. The current board, CEO and staff are working towards establishing Tandanya as a national hub for high quality visual and performing arts. We are focusing on the future and a new vision. Being a part of the iconic Adelaide Fringe is a great way to do this and to let the community know that we are standing strong, our doors are open to everyone,” said Tandanya Chief Executive Officer, Dennis Stokes.

Senior Kaurna Custodian of Country/ Tandanya Board member, Karl Telfer said, “We haven’t created something new, we have strengthened our cultural circle and invite all communities to share in our circle and become connected through experiencing what our cultures have to offer.”

In 2020, Tandanya have partnered with Adelaide Fringe to host their signature event, ‘Yabarra: Dreaming In Light’. Last year, Yabarra lit up the banks of the River Torrens drawing huge crowds. In 2020 and for all 31 days and nights of the Fringe, audiences are invited to come and experience Yabarra as a unique indoor cultural experience which will engage, immerse and educate all who share the Dreaming In Light.

Tandanya will also present a lineup of high calibre productions programmed and managed internally, which offers something for everyone across the genres of theatre, dance, cabaret, music, film, comedy and visual arts. At the heart of the First Nations Hub experience are very limited exclusive runs of the theatrical productions I Don’t Wanna Play House’ and The Daly River Girl’.

I DON’T WANNA PLAY HOUSE is Pakana woman Tammy Anderson’s critically acclaimed one-woman show, a kinetic swirl of monologue, movement and song which relives the abuse she and her family endured. Tammy presents a gripping and ultimately celebratory performance, evoking her consummate skill at differentiating the members of her family. Tammy Anderson will also share her 30-year journey as a theatre and film maker, writer and director, in an artist talk event, ‘On The Couch With Tammy Anderson’ (Sunday 15th March @ 2pm).

‘I Don’t Wanna Play House’ runs Friday 13th to Saturday 14th March for 3 performances only.

THE DALY RIVER GIRL depicts writer/actor Tessa Rose’s journey growing up with foster families, away from her natural mother, family and country. It is a deeply personal story that travels through adolescence to womanhood, the cruelty of domestic violence and the resilience to overcome obstacles on her own. Tessa has regularly appeared on stage, screen and TV in Australia including roles in the hit movie ‘Top End Wedding’, ABC-TV’s ‘Redfern Now’ and in productions by Bangarra Dance Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre Company.

‘The Daly River Girl’ runs Saturday 29th February to Sunday 1st March for 3 performances only.

Each Saturday night of the Fringe will see the Tandanya Theatre host ‘Black List Cabaret’, a cabaret riot of A-list First Nations artists of colour from across the festival, hosted and curated by 2020 Adelaide Fringe Ambassador – the formidable Fez Faanana.

Tandanya Café will relaunch during Fringe into a revitalised multi-purpose space featuring an impressive lineup of First Nations live music across every weekend. Café by day and bar by night, Tandanya Café will offer a food menu including local and native ingredients. Tandanya are offering the opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to train in the kitchen, café and front of house, with the aim of being able to support the community through volunteer and employment opportunities for years to come.

Rounding out the ‘something for everyone’ program is a cracking lineup of comedians, the 2019 Adelaide Fringe Best Emerging Artist award winner ‘Spirit’ performed by Yellaka, live music by artists including Melbourne based electronic dance duo The Merindas and Adelaide’s very own Nathan May, an indigenous contemporary dance masterclass, free film screenings and a weekly free cultural workshop series.

TANDANYA FRINGE 2020 – FIRST NATIONS HUB

FRIDAY 14TH FEBRUARY – SUNDAY 15TH MARCH

Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute

253 Grenfell Street, Adelaide

All tickets available from FringeTIX

www.adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix 1300 621 255

or from Tandanya Box Office during opening hours – 253 Grenfell Street Adelaide