Resisting Australia’s fear on cultural difference: JURRUNGU NGAN-GA [Straight Talk] by Marrugeku

Marrugeku turns the spotlight on Australia’s approach to locking people up, in a visceral, turbo-charged new dance work.

Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] examines the common thread that connects outrageous levels of Indigenous incarceration to the indefinite detaining of asylum seekers.

Emmanuel James Brown in Jurrungu Ngan-ga | Photo by Abby Murray

Three years in development between Marrugeku’s twin homes of Broome and Sydney, this mesmerising epic of dance theatre is inspired by perspectives on incarceration shared by Yawuru leader Senator Patrick Dodson, Kurdish-Iranian writer and former Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani and philosopher Omid Tofighian.

Senator Dodson provided inspiration for this new work from his observations, “We lack the ability to straight talk to one another about cultural difference, fear grows in each generation, holding community and society back in multiple ways.”

As one of six Commissioners (and the only non-lawyer) into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody thirty years ago, Senator Dodson made the critical link between the rampant imprisonment of Indigenous Australians and the locking up of refugees in offshore and onshore detention centres.

A fearless feat that poses questions of vital urgency, Jurrungu Ngan-ga – literally ‘Straight Talk’ – exposes the deep-seated fears that create Australia’s ‘prison of the mind’ and prevents a way forward to truth and justice.

Through movement, spoken word, installation and a powerful musical soundscape, Jurrungu Ngan-ga’s large ensemble draws on intersecting cultural and community informed experiences – Indigenous, immigrant, people seeking asylum, transgender and settler – to ask: who’s really in prison here?

Marrugeku Co-Artistic Directors Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain explain that Jurrungu Ngan-ga is a searing, often darkly humorous and ultimately transformative portrayal of fear, “It reflects on the disgraceful disproportion of Indigenous Australians in custody and first-hand descriptions of life inside Australia’s immigration detention centres.”

“White Australia was founded of a dream of imprisonment and that mission has evolved into a fixation with locking people away. This work reveals how a range of perspectives can address this burning issue of our times and pave a way forward together,” said Pigram and Swain.

Arts House Artistic Director, Emily Sexton, welcomes back long-term collaborators Marrugeku, “This critical new performance features one of the best dance ensembles you could assemble in this country, wrapped around by a dazzling team of creatives.”

“Marrugeku’s recent inclusion in the Australia Council’s National Performing Arts Partnership Framework cements their status as a critical intercultural company, working across Indigenous and non- Indigenous cultures as well as remote and urban communities. We are so proud to continue a long history of collaboration between Dalisa, Rachael and Arts House with this exceptional new work,” said Sexton.

Marrugeku has an unparalleled presence in Australia that is dedicated to Indigenous knowledge systems and creating hallmark intercultural experiences with a diverse range of performers, artists and collaborators.

Jurrungu Ngan-ga previewed in Broome in May before its premiere in Sydney (4 – 7 August), then seasons in Darwin (13 – 14 August) and Melbourne at Arts House (18 – 22 August).

Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] by Marrugeku

Season:  18 – 22 August 2021
Times: 7.30pm Wed – Fri, 2pm & 7:30pm Sat, 5pm Sun
Duration: 85 mins
Venue: Arts House – North Melbourne Town Hall
Address: 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Tickets: $20 + booking fee
Bookings: or (03) 9322 3720

Header photo by Abby Murray

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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