“In Timor, in the school, we have to learn about the Portuguese language, because it’s the official language, in our country.”
“That’s not your mother tongue, is it? What’s your language?”
“Makasai. And my husband’s is Fataluku.”
“Can you two understand each other?”
“And what language do you speak at home?”
In the fourth episode of the season, we speak to theatre director Leticia Cáceres, and performer and writer Lena Caminha, about language and its relationship to belonging. What happens when your mother tongue is not your country’s national language? What happens when your husband’s mother tongue is not your own? What happens when your teacher cannot pronounce your name? What happens when you migrate to a country whose language you resisted learning in school, because it was the language of the coloniser?
“Some places in this country have been bleached white. And it’s places where we don’t recognise Italians and we don’t recognise Hungarians, we don’t recognise Argentinians, that kind of make up that whole fabric of this land, and that we’re been here for quite some time, building this country together. There’s only one culture that’s recognised, and one name that’s easy to pronounce.”
– Leticia Cáceres
The fourth episode of this season brings you a conversation that was not programmed for WOW Festival Melbourne, but instead was recorded separately a few days before the festival opened itself up to the world. In a large warehouse space around the corner from the festival mainstage, artists from Bangladesh, Timor-Leste, India, Indonesia and Australia were busy developing new collaborative works, critical conversations and creative exchanges to be presented at the festival. This international residency program, called Women, Art & Politics, is facilitated by Footscray Community Arts Centre’s Collaborate Asia Program and Asia TOPA.
All the artists had spent the last few days working together and working a part on their respective practices all exploring the intersection of the concepts within the theme Women, Art & Politics, in their local and global contexts and how they impact their practice and communities. Two of the resident artists, Lena Caminha and Leticia Cáceres, took a break from their rehearsal to record in a small room, just out of reach from the group, but just close enough so you can hear magic being created in the background.
Discussed in this episode:
speaking English, not speaking English, the women who came before us, learning English in Canada, learning English in Queensland, contemporary feminism, Melbourne vs Sydney (but the West is the best!), how providing a platform for women is not the same as belonging to contemporary feminism, our husbands, our children, our accents, giving our children unpronounceable names, and what it means to be understood.
“I certainly identify as a feminist. I am constantly challenged by feminism. I respect many people who are resisting it, particularly women of colour, and queer folk who have found many problems with the feminist movement, and I am constantly trying to keep up with all of the ways in which we can make the thing more inclusive, and more sensitive to, or more aware of, the inherent privileges that are embedded in that movement, and have been in the movement for some time. But I can’t deny the overwhelming sense of pride that I feel being associated, and standing in solidarity, with women like Lena, and feminists that have come before me, and have achieved the incredible things that they have achieved. And I am also incredibly aware of the enormity of the scale of work that needs to be done, still.”
– Letitia Cáceres
This season of Audiostage was created in partnership with Footscray Community Arts Centre as part of WOW – Women of the World Festival Melbourne, delivered in association with Southbank Centre London.
Image credit: Rachel Main