Remarks at Launch of Oz Fest
TUE 16 OCTOBER 2012
New Delhi, India
Tonight, I have the pleasure to open Oz Fest – my country's biggest ever cultural festival in your country.
Oz Fest will bring a touch of Australia to India’s shores.
Running from the middle of October through to early February next year, Oz Fest will reach out to audiences in 18 locations across India, in the north, the south, the west and the east.
Australia is known for the most part around the world, including in India, for its sporting prowess, its beautiful scenery and its relaxed lifestyle.
But we are also a nation that values our world class artists, who play a critical role in society - exploring, challenging, inventing and communicating.
Within and beyond our nation’s shores, our artists interpret cultural differences and bring us together.
So Oz Fest is about bringing Australia's contemporary character to India in new and fresh ways.
We want to surprise and excite you.
Amuse you and cause you to reflect.
And to show you the versatility and depth of contemporary Australian culture.
To give you just a few examples, for young audiences we feature the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and up-and-coming bands such as Sheppard, the Aston Shuffle and Big Scary.
The cinema culture of today will be featured through Save Your Legs!, a fabulous Australia movie about cricket and life, starring Pallavi Sharda, an Australian of Indian descent who is carving out a career in Bollywood.
“The Bookwallah” will take six writers, three Australia and three Indian, on a 2000 kilometre train ride across India, seeking out stories, conversations, and connections.
We will also feature great works of collaboration between our two peoples.
For admirers of physical beauty, The Pilbara Project will display photographs of Australia's rugged, starkly beautiful north-west region by Australian and Indian photographers.
And for theatre bugs there is The Lady of the Sea, a major collaborative work between the Brisbane Powerhouse and the Abinaya Research Centre.
Two Oceans will continue a long-term collaboration between the Australian Art Orchestra and some of the greatest exponents of India's Carnatic classical music to create a new musical language.
Through OzFest, we also want to build a bridge to our shared past.
For example, few people probably know that one of the great characters of Indian cinema in the 1930s and 1940s, Fearless Nadia, was played by an Australian, Mary Ann Evans.
Born in Western Australia, she came to India as a child, forged a very unexpected cinematic career here and married into the Wadia family.
India became Mary's home.
Oz Fest will present some of Fearless Nadia's classic scenes to a new musical score played by an orchestra of Australian and Indian musicians.
This production premiered to strong reviews at the OzAsia festival in Adelaide several weeks ago.
And friends, there will be more.
But tonight, to launch this festival, we begin with a musical interplay of the cultures of our two countries.
Shortly Mark Atkins, Gurrumul Yunupingu, and Anoushka Shankar, some of the most gifted musicians from our two countries, will be taking us on an equally magical musical journey – a journey celebrating the meeting of Australian and Indian contemporary culture and their grounding in ancient tradition.
On that score, I am delighted to announce the Ravi Shankar World Music Scholarship.
The scholarship honours the exceptional life and work of Pandit Ravi Shankar, who has done so much to bring Indian culture to the world and to fuse the old with the new.
The award will offer a Masters degree scholarship to study at the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne in 2013.
It has the Shankar family’s blessing, and support from the Australia India Institute.
Like OzFest itself, this scholarship symbolises everything we have to share and everything we have to learn from each other.
In that spirit, it gives me great pleasure to formally declare Oz Fest open in the hope it will bring joy to many and strengthen the bonds of affection and respect that exist between our two nations.
So let the music begin and let’s build for the future together.