Imagine Australia: Year of Australian Culture in China


The launch in June of Australia’s year of culture in China has kicked off with two exceptional events in Beijing writes Sophie Loras.

A concert in June showcasing some of Australia’s top performing artists in a range of mediums – and all being performed under the one roof of Beijing’s iconic National Centre for Performing Arts (whose international cultural director, Qiao Luqiang is coincidentally an alumnus of the University of South Australia) – could not have better encapsulated the launch of Imagine Australia – Year of Australian Culture in China.

Launched by the Governor-General of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce, the concert showcased a diverse range of performances from up-and-coming Australian artists including Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy, violin soloist Niki Vasilakis and Australia’s leading didgeridoo player William Barton, and while hugely varied in their mediums, in their traditions and their origins, showcased in the one concert, the diversity and synergies of Australia’s multi-cultural heritage.

For many of us in the audience, the clincher and tear jerker, came at the conclusion of the event when Jessica Mauboy was joined on stage by all the performers as she sang Christine Anu’s My Island Home set against a back drop of desert plains, white sandy beaches and vast empty blue skies. Having not seen the sky for several days due to heavy smog in the Capital, the imagery seemed particularly poignant.nikki_vasilakis__william_barton_thumb


Other highlights included Deborah Brown and Leonard Mickelo from the acclaimed Bangarra Dance Theatre who thrilled the audience with their performance inspired by the cultural values and traditions of indigenous Australia. The combined performance of William Barton on his didgeridoo and Niki Vasilakis on the violin was unexpected and extraordinary (pictured right).  There were performances from the Band of Brothers – Slava and Leonard Grigoryan on classical guitar, Joseph Tawadros on the oud and brother James on req, fusing together the traditions of classical Egypt with European dance and Australia’s leading vocal ensemble, the Song Company.

It was – in short – a night to remember and a taste for what is still to come over the next 12 months in celebration of Australia’s year of culture in China.


As part of the Australian Highlights Concert to launch Imagine Australia, two excerpts from the opera Passion – an Australian-Chinese collaboration blending Western and Peking traditions were performed. The first, ‘Love at First Sight’ and the second ‘Gossip’ which both form part of a longer piece to be premiered in Beijing in early 2011.

Passion is the result of more than 18 months of Chinese and Australian creative collaboration and is a fresh interpretation of the story of China’s anti-heroine, Pan Jinlian, from the Ming Dynasty classic Outlaws of the Marsh. It is a tale of love, lust, seduction, betrayal, murder and revenge.

ABF media

The bilingual libretto was written by Australian author and China scholar Linda Jaivin who worked under the guidance of renowned Peking Opera librettist and former President of the China National Peking Opera Company, Mr Wu Jiang. Passion stars Chinese Australian soprano Yu Shu-Cheen in her role as Pan Jinlian.
The score has been composed by Peking Opera composer Zhu Shaoyu and is directed by John Wregg.

To read more click here.


Also in June, was the launch of ‘Aboriginal Art from Australia’s Deserts’ at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.

The exhibition is a combination of ‘Papunya Painting: out of the Australian Desert’ and ‘Balgo: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills’ and will form part of a reciprocal exchange to host an exhibition of Chinese art in Australia in late 2011.
aborigianal_art_webThe artworks showcase the history, traditions and stories of the Papunya and Balgo Hills communities of central Australia, which despite differences in their artistic style, express the common link between land and place and how these connections have been maintained throughout the 40,000 years of Indigenous Australian culture and history.


Picture: A glimpse of the Australian Indigenous artwork on display at the National Art Museum of China. (Sophie Sun)

* ‘Aboriginal Art from Australia’s Deserts’ runs until August 31 at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.

** Imagine Australia – Year of Australian Culture in China runs until June 2011.For a full listing of events and programmes throughout China and Australia visit:


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