Archive | November, 2013

Kicking it down the line

25 Nov

“The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors… The oppressed find in the oppressors their model of ‘manhood’… The oppressed want at any cost to resemble the oppressors.”

– Paolo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed

It has happened in every revolution in history, one oppressive class is replaced with another. But this is a story of how I have seen it happen in the space of two generations, and of how we can stop the cycle.

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My parents came to Australia from central Italy in the early 1950s. They arrived on ships. My father arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia, on New Year’s Day 1952, and my mother and three year old brother followed eighteen months later. None of them could speak a word of English when they arrived. I am often asked why they came to Australia, and it is a question I asked of them myself several times in my life. Like most big life questions, the answer is somewhat complicated. And in this case, there is an official and an unofficial story.

My parents were born in Italy, and grew up in small farming communities near the border of the Marche and Romagna regions, just inland of the Adriatic coast. They both started going to school, but neither were able to complete their schooling because they were needed on the farms on which their respective families worked. My mother made it into, but did not complete, the third grade. She was the top of her class. My father made it a few years further.

They were teenagers during the second world war, and lived near the Eastern end of the Gothic line, the final line of defence for the Axis forces in Italy once the Allies began their attack.

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Silence is Violence

22 Nov

One of the things I do with my time is to work with prisoners on performing Shakespeare. In the project I direct, this leads up to the prisoners at Southern Queensland Correctional Centre performing a Shakespeare play for audiences of other inmates, families, staff and invited guests from the community. At the moment I’m travelling in the United States and Italy, exploring and working with a few similar projects. I spent a month in Michigan working with Shakespeare Behind Bars on both an adult men’s and a juveniles’ (mixed) project led by Curt Tofteland (his TEDx talk is here). After that, I took part in the first Shakespeare in Prisons Conference at the University of Notre Dame. For the last handful of days I’ve been in Kentucky with the original Shakespeare Behind Bars project that Tofteland founded, now run by Matt Wallace.

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As a result of this, I have made valuable connections with many other Prison Shakespeare practitioners, as this can be fairly isolated work. The QSE project is the only Prison Shakespeare project in Australia, and one of only two in the southern hemisphere (the other being by the Independent Theatre Movement of South Africa). I’ve been steeped in the practice and philosophies of this kind of work (and pretty much nothing else except beer and bourbon) for the last five weeks.

I’m not going to write about the details of the process night about the benefits and challenges. You can read all about that in the final chapter of Teaching Shakespeare Beyond the Centre. Instead I want to explore here why arts work of any kind is important for marginalised populations. This is basically the written version of a short talk I gave at Women in Transition‘s open mike poetry night,  ‘Silence is Violence‘ held at the Rudyard Kipling bar in Louisville on November 21, 2013.

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Panforte (all’Australiano)

6 Nov

Christmas is coming, and since this has to sit for a while before you eat it (well, ideally), I thought it best to get this recipe out there now.

Legend goes that the Sienese army use to carry this stuff around as part of their rations. It’s certainly high in protein, fruit fibre, and natural sugars from the fruit. There is a gluten free version (using nut flours) but the result is completely different. There is very little flour in this recipe and I’ve had gluten-intolerant friends able to eat it. It’s basically fruits and nuts held together using a minimum of flour and candy as glue. I like spices, so this recipe is fairly spicy (and I still tend to increase the amount of spice by about 50% on top of what’s here).

The Australian touch is that I’ve replaced half of the hazelnuts from the traditional recipe with macadamias, half the citrus peel with crystallised ginger, and half the dried figs with dates. No vegemite.. yet. Continue reading