My Name Is Jimi is a rich culmination of culture, history, and harrowing storytelling. It tracks back through the history of Torres Straight islander Jimi Bani’s family tree to create an innovative sharing of evocative stories, passed down from generation to generation. The work is motivated by a need for preservation and the continuation of his cultural and familial history. Jimi achieves this with his heartfelt storytelling and insightful sharing of personal and cultural information. With beautiful song, captivating dance, soulful music and rich design, Jimi sets the stage not only educate the audience about his cultural heritage, but to also invite them into his love and appreciation of family.
Jimi enters the space in a slick suit surrounded by his family – his mother, grandmother, brothers and son – in traditional or typical clothing worn by the Torres Straight community. Jimi is immediately welcoming and charismatic , he speaks to the audience as if they are already his close friend or confidants from the moment he opens his mouth. Besides the fact that Jimi and his family all enter the stage and welcome the audience by placing down an actual welcome mat, Jimi creates a personal welcome with his down to earth presence and cheeky demeanour, to set a comforting tone to what is otherwise a confronting journey through some of Torres Straight’s underlying cultural history. The work is rooted in sharing tradition, picking apart the complexities and manifestations of their language, exposing the threat of losing their culture’s traditions throughout the Torres Straight’s expansion and adaptation when exploring other historical cultures and continents. It is important in its purpose and immediate in its fulfilment with audience members acquiring knowledge and absorbing the culture’s terms and traditions from the initial moments of the play and beyond its conclusion.
The work’s primary foundation is storytelling: storytelling of personal family recollection; a passing down of cultural stories such as rituals, dance, song, and childhood fables; and the account of a culturs’s ebbs and flows as it is passed down from Chief to Chief. The stories are rich and emotive, transcending from Bani family memories to significant ceremonial clothing and garments, to highlighting remarkable achievements throughout their family tree, and sharing childhood fables around a campfire. It is a beautiful combination of history and narrative, creativity and love.
As if a multitude of stories, history, and down to earth connections aren’t mesmerising enough, the entire production is enriched by a design that is both modest and magical. Designer duo Simona Cosentini and Simone Tesorieri join forces with sound and projection designer Justin Anderson to create a sleek film and diorama fused masterpiece. A digital projection fills the blank back wall, displaying a computer generated presentation that zooms as big as outer space space and as small as animated diagrams and puppetry on stage. The projection provides digitally generated galaxy layouts and constellation diagrams to track family names and titles when following Jimi’s family tree. It then expands to handheld cameras filming live puppetry on gorgeous, rich dioramas situated either side of the stage, while song or narration continues in the stage’s centre. The most memorable puppetry moments are when singing, music or story overlay the visuals. A traditional Torres Straight song used for rare fishing opportunities demonstrates a storing and sharing of cultural practice, while a frightening childhood fable about a cruel monster is told to encourage respect for elders and discipline. It is entertaining and educational all at once.
Jimi’s mother, grandmother, brothers and son all ensure that the familial content is forefronted from the show’s beginning. While respected Elder Pethari Bani shares stories and rituals of dance and multiple languages, Jimi’s 15 year old son battles between his familial heritage and a gentrification into Western culture and a growing disassociation caused by technology. The Bani family have heart, hope, disco grooves and hip-hop dance moves. It is beautiful to witness and their presence takes the work from a single man’s efforts to a continual flow from one family member to the next.
My Name Is Jimi is rich in purpose and truth, with a harrowing message to preserve love, praise achievements and maintain familial connection. We as audience members are given the gift of contributing to the work by witnessing it and supporting Jimi’s quest of ensuring the passing on of his culture for future generations. By engaging with the work we strengthen its impact and broadening our own Brisbane-based community’s connection with Torres Straight Islands. Jimi not only ensures that the fire of his culture remains lit, he broadcasts the history and his hope with audiences so that the fire may spread in the hearts and minds of others for the future.
– Written by Rhumer Diball Aug 1st 2017
MY NAME IS JIMI PRESENTED BY QUEENSLAND THEATRE .
22nd Jul – 13 Aug
Photo Credit Veronica Sagredo