by Phoebe Repeti

Image: Open Dar development 2021, by Romel Bahhi

Open Dar

Friday 8 September 2023
6.00 pm to 8.30 pm
The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre

Arab Theatre Studio, with the support of Blacktown Arts, presents
Open Dar.

Open Dar, open house, is a trilogy of cultural events on Dharug Country across three locations in Granville, Blacktown and Bankstown.

Join Aunty Rita Wright, Aunty Kerrie Kenton and the Arab Theatre Studio’s creative team at The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre the site of Sorry Business, Remembering and Healing, as they open the Dar with storytelling and performance, music and video, and deep textures of natural materials. Each gathering will be unique, threading the encounters over the three sites.

All are invited to take part in welcome, acknowledgments and ritual of cleansing and participate in a hands-on workshop using natural materials with Open Dar artists Nicole Barakat, Yul Scarf, Idil Abdullahi and Kamil Abdullahi.

Open Dar is an Arab Theatre Studio collaborative work guided by Elder in Residence Aunty Rita Wright, conceived in Granville in early 2020 and creatively developed in Blacktown in 2021. The three cultural gatherings being shared in September 2023 have come out of a process of deep listening and reflection on making work on Country.

Featuring Kerrie Kenton, Alissar Chidiac, Claudia Chidiac, Faith Chaza, Feras Shaheen, Hamed Sadeghi, Hazem Shammas, Idil Abdullahi, Kamil Abdullahi, Maissa Alameddine, Marian Abboud, Nicole Barakat, Paula Abood, Susan Abboud and Yul Scarf.

The second gathering will be held at The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre, book now.

See full Spring line-up here.

Creative team

Autny RIta WrightAunty Rita Wright is a Muruwari woman from Brewarrina in western NSW and a member of the Stolen Generation. Aunty Rita has lived in the Mount Druitt area for many years and is a recognised leader for her dedication to the local communities of greater western Sydney. She received a Community Fellowship from Western Sydney University (WSU) and her story was featured in the Stolen Generation documentary Servant or Slave. Aunty Rita is an advocate for justice for the Stolen Generations, her stories published in anthologies and across media. Aunty Rita formed the dance group Grace’s Grannies, bringing Elders and young people together to perform at festivals and cultural events across Sydney.

Image: Aunty Rita Wright, courtesy of the artist

Arab TheatreArab Theatre Studio is an independent organisation of contemporary artists and creative producers based in Granville, western Sydney.

Their vision is to continue their collective history of developing Arab-centred critical conversations and creative spaces. Their activities include growing a creative hub in western Sydney, connecting artists, facilitating critical conversations and participatory workshops, producing performances, live works and accessible multilingual theatre, sharing information online and through social media, and becoming a hub for referrals.

Since 2016 Alissar Chidiac and Maissa Alameddine have worked as creative producers, developing the foundations that led to Arab Theatre Studio being incorporated in 2019. From early 2020, the organisation’s Artistic Subcommittee became the creative work base, expanding the team with Marian Abboud, Hazem Shammas and Paula Abood.

AlissarAlissar Chidiac has been working in community cultural engagement for over 40 years. Since 1991 her focus has been on Arab Australian cultures, through contemporary cultural production, cultural heritage and performance work. Alissar lives and works on Dharug land and is a founding member and creative producer with Arab Theatre Studio. She has previously developed major initiatives with the Powerhouse Museum and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, as well as many independent programs in Auburn, Parramatta and Granville. Alissar received a Community Arts Fellowship in 2005 from the Australia Council for the Arts, and in 2010 the Australia Council’s Ros Bower Award, honouring a lifetime contribution to community arts and cultural development.

Image: Alissar Chidiac by George Voulgaropoulos

Claudia ChidiacClaudia Chidiac is a creative producer and arts worker. For twenty years, she has worked with diverse communities creating intimate and large scale experiences across greater Sydney. Her recent works centre children as producers of their own narratives and since 2021 she has been producing The Village by The Kids, audio walking adventures in neighbourhoods’, co-curated and designed with children in partnerships with primary schools. Claudia was the founder and creative producer of the award-winning western Sydney Way Out West (WOW) Festival for Children (2011-2013 and 2017-2020).

In 2008 Claudia was one of the Australian delegates selected to participate in the inaugural Next Generation Symposium as part of the 16th ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival. In 2006, she was awarded the Australia Council for the Arts Community Cultural Development Young Leaders Award.

Image: Claudia Chidiac, courtesy of the artist

Faith ChazaHailing from Botswana (with significant pauses in Zimbabwe and South Africa), Faith is now rooted in Sydney and building a practice influenced and enabled by their diverse experiences in communities. Their works present a vibrant mosaic of expression – spanning poetry, prose, music, stage performances, and sonic forays into the experimental. Some of Faith’s previous words have been captured in the journals Itch and Aerodome; The Ghost Eater anthology; FBI’s Or It Didn’t Happen podcast and Bodies – a stage production they also directed. Musically, Faith has composed soundscapes and stand alone pieces on commission, performs live with their other-worldy modular rig and served as the music director for the Sounds/Words Block Party (part of 2021 Sydney Writers’ Festival).

Image: Faith Chaza, courtesy of the artist

Feras SheheenFeras Shaheen is an artist curious in letting his conceptual interests lead him across a variety of mediums. Using choreography, installation work, film, performance, digital media, and street dance to communicate his ideas, the core of Feras’ practice is to connect and engage audiences. Holding a Bachelor of Design from Western Sydney University (2014), Feras often subverts traditional relationships between mediums to challenge audiences’ perspectives.

Born in Dubai to Palestinian parents, and moving to western Sydney at age 11, Feras uses his practice as a way to reflect and examine how he views the world, addressing local and global issues. Winner of The Australian Ballet’s Telstra Emerging Choreographer (TEC) in 2021, Feras has performed and exhibited at Carriageworks, Venice Biennale, Pari, Kampnagel, Campbelltown Arts Centre, and Théâtre de la Ville. Recent works include Cross Cultures, Plastic Bag, ongoing collaboration Klapping, and Forum Q. Feras is currently working with Marrugeku’s ‘Jurrungu Ngan-ga’, a collaborative production that addresses issues regarding the fear of cultural differences.

Image: Feras Shaheen, courtesy of the artist

KamilKamil Abdullahi is an emerging ceramic artist working out of the vibrant Darug country in south western Sydney. With a deep connection to her African and South Asian heritage, Kamil finds inspiration in the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty surrounding her. As an artist, she has chosen ceramics as her primary medium, using clay to give shape to her artistic visions. Kamil’s work transcends the boundaries of traditional ceramics, showcasing her unique style and innovative techniques.

Through her art, she explores themes of cultural identity, community, and the interplay between human experience and the natural world. Kamil’s creations invite viewers to engage with her thought-provoking narratives and embrace the beauty of everyday objects.

Image: Kamil Abdullahi, courtesy of the artist

Kerrie KentonKerrie Kenton is a Sydney based multidisciplinary First Nations visual artist and knowledge holder of the Wangal People of Sydney. Her art practice is intricately woven with knowledge, kinship, story & song. Kerrie is an educator, weaver, sculptor, painter and designer. Her works are inspired by her Indigenous heritage, healing and the environment. Her approach to her work reflects her commitment to her community, education and Reconciliation. Kerrie has won two Deadly Awards and many others and has had multiple artist residency’s including the Fonderie Darling in Montreal Canada.

Kerrie holds many commissions and public art works to her name across Sydney and her works are held
in collections in Australia and overseas.

Image: Kerrie Kenton, courtesy of the artist

Hamed SadeghiHamed Sadegh is an Iranian-born tar player and composer based on Gadigal land (Sydney).
He has composed music for multiple theatre and dance productions and films including Sami in Paradise Belvoir, Stop Girl Belvoir, The Boomkak Panto Belvoir, Cloe Fournier’s Tout Ce Sa Sydney Dance Company and William Zappa’s The Iliad and Tennessine Sydney Film Festival. Sadeghi has released 4 albums to critical acclaimed and has earned recognition through nominations for ARIA Awards 2021 for best world music album and best jazz album He has been a finalist at APRA Art Music Awards and have been nominated for best original score of mainstage production at Sydney Theatre Awards.

Image: Hamed Sadeghi, courtesy of the artist

Hazem ShammasActor and artist Hazem Shammas’ work is varied across an award winning stage and screen career and through his writing, producing and advocacy. He draws from 25 years experience working with major theatre and screen companies across the country, being a founding director with Poetry In Action in the small arts organisation and education sector and experimenting with independent works of performance utilizing poetry, movement, video and photography.

Image: Hazem Shammas, courtesy of the artist

Idil AbdullhiIdil Abdullahi was born in Somalia and arrived in Australia as a refugee with her family in 1993. They settled in western Sydney, where she still lives and works. Idil dedicates herself to nurturing the culturally rooted creative practices of other women and young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, in addition to her own. Idil is known for her mastery of the delicate art of henna painting, a skill she has been honing since she was a small child, as well as her work with ceramics, photography and textiles.

Her diverse artistic works are all infused with the legacy of her Somali ancestry, frequently incorporating artistic practices from Somali Sufi traditions. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from UNSW Art and Design; exhibits regularly; has received several grants including one from Museum and Galleries NSW to curate a group exhibition, African Diaspora; and is an active member of eleven, a collective of contemporary Muslim Australian creatives.

Image: Nidil Abdullhi courtesy of the artist

Maissa AlameddineMaissa Alameddine grew up in Tripoli, Lebanon and now lives and works on the unceded lands of the Cammeraygal and Dharug peoples. She is a multidisciplinary artist and vocalist who explores the idea of migration as a chronic injury. She uses her voice as a provocation and a response. Maissa produces, curates and collaborates on multi-disciplinary works and has worked with local Arabic music ensembles, western orchestras, and art organisations. She is a founding member, producer and artist of western Sydney-based Arab Theatre Studio.

Maissa has exhibited her work at Firstdraft gallery, Fairfield City & Museums Gallery, Campbelltown Arts Centre. She has participated in a 50 Days residency atDocumenta15 with Indonesian collective Gudskul’s collective studies curriculum. She has performed at Sydney Opera House, and with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Performance Space Carriageworks, Phoenix Central Park and the Art Gallery of NSW.

Image: Maissa Alameddine, courtesy of the artist

Marian AbboudMarian Abboud is a socially engaged artist and community connection worker based on Dhurag land She works across various technologies to create collective outcomes through projected images that feed into performance, installation and site-specific works. Marian uses multilingualism through movement, video, sound and text to develop live performances for civic engagement and social activism.

Image: Marian Abboud, courtesy of the artist

Nicole Barakat Nicole Barakat is a Kfarsghabi, Lebanese artist living on the lands and waters of the Gadigal People. She works with deep listening and intuitive processes with intentions to transform the conditions of everyday life. Her practice is rooted in re-membering and re-gathering her ancestral knowing, including coffee divination and more recently working with plants and flower essences for community care. Nicole’s experience includes over twenty years of collaborative community-engagement and arts education. She undertook a residency in Bethlehem, Palestine in 2010 and was in residency in 2023 at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris where she was convening with a 300-year-old Lebanese Cedar tree.

Image: Nicole Barakat, courtesy of the artist

Paula Abood is a writer, educator, community cultural artist and producer. She has worked with communities for over three decades, receiving the Australia Council’s Ros Bower Award in 2013 for lifetime achievement in community cultural practice. She has written, directed, and produced plays The Cartographer’s Curse (2016), the politics of belly dancing: a choreopoem (1994); the blog Race and the City (2010); and been published in Sydney Review of Books (2016, 2023), Australian Poetry Journal (2020), and Arab Australian Other: Stories on Race and Identity (2019). Paula is currently a co-Director of not-for-profit The Third Space and Chair of Arab Theatre Studio.

Susan Abboud has been working and collaborating with contemporary artists, particularly with her sister Marian Abboud, for the past 15 years. She has actively engaged with Arab Theatre Studio since 2018, as well as being in performances with independent Indigenous choreographer Vicky Van Hout. Highlights include Not Her Reflection at Artspace in Woolloomooloo and The Sports Show at Pari-Ari in Parramatta. She works primarily with family and community to connect with culture and to link heritage and her own lived experience of migration, belonging and identity, and what that means to work on Country on stolen land.

YULYul Scarf is an artist interested in making work that foregrounds Indigenous sovereignty. Yul is what can happen to your children if you don’t teach them Arabic!! Open Dar is their first time working with Arab Theatre Studio.

Image: Yul Scarf, courtesy of the artist

Open Dar is supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, UTP and Bankstown Arts Centre, Blacktown Arts and Blacktown City Council. Creative development supported by Create NSW.