Context Writers Festival returns with programming that pushes back

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“First of all, I thought about how to shake things up a bit,” Guerrera explains.

“I feel like everyone on this program is backing down in one way or another – and that they are all very good at their jobs, whether it’s writing about themselves or writing about it. oppression. They push back the mainstream, push back the colony and really challenge [people], and giving other perspectives.

True to this message of resistance, the festival’s opening night will feature Goenpul University Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson, whose books Talk to the white woman and The white possessive have become founding texts.

“I wanted someone to open the festival who would bring a big punch – who is really loyal in their work and who doesn’t apologize,” Guerrera said. “His work resonates with all Indigenous scholars, [and] it has been instrumental in my own understanding of how I position myself in spaces like the arts or academia.

“I also feel like Adelaide can be a sleepy, complacent place at times – there isn’t a lot of fuss. I really want her to come because I know her words are so powerful and direct, and I wanted her to speak directly to the writers to make sure they hear and listen to those strong words.

Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson will speak at the opening event of the Context Writers Festival.

A similar common thread runs through sessions such as “Smashing the Glass Cabinet” on October 9, in which artist and curator Nici Cumpston, performer, visual artist and filmmaker Ali Gumillya Baker and songwriter – Performer Corey Theater will explore the challenges of working in and around culture. institutions whose position of trust and influence in the community in general is often at odds with their antecedents with First Nations peoples.

“They occupy not only our land, but our knowledge,” Guerrera says of the role these “colony tools” have played in defining past and present.

“There are a lot of aboriginal people talking about this, and I just wanted to give another platform for this discussion. The three people are amazing and they worked in this space – I can’t want to see them sitting at a table, talking about this stuff.

Like its debut program, this year’s Context also seeks to unravel the contours of what one might expect from Writers’ Festivals in Adelaide, from a zine workshop hosted by artist and activist Ruby Allegra back from long participatory tables, which encourage audience members to join the conversation in a more immediate way than traditional panel formats.

“I think it could be a little more daring – and not just for someone who puts out a book,” Guerrera says of the typical form of literary events.

“When I go to these festivals, I want to be stimulated beyond buying the next big book, you know? But also, locally, it’s about tapping into the people who do things for themselves. That’s why I chose Soul Lounge, ”he says of the monthly community-run live poetry series which will close the Context programming on Saturday. “It’s just this amazing night that is hosted by local young people of color. Every time I go there, I am moved by the whole spectrum of emotions.

Guerrera has seen firsthand how more popular festival stages and platforms can help shape new voices and ideas. Last month he won the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Indigenous Poetry Prize for his poem Unwelcome in the country, which Judges Ellen van Neerven and Jazz Money describe as a “sharp” and “timeless” critique of the contemporary impacts of colonization.

“The fact [the judges] I saw it for what it was – a protest poem – even though I’m talking about Park Lands and festivals and it sounds very “Adelaide” it just shows that it can be used anywhere. Because the colony is no different here than elsewhere. And everything in it, I think every Native has experienced or witnessed it.

people think we don’t have to change things – but we have so much to change

Unwanted in the country is a work Guerrera first performed at Adelaide Writers’ Week, and refined to give an invigorating effect in a number of subsequent festival appearances. “But that’s the power of playing live, isn’t it?” It’s definitely an evolution, and it’s in a real sense an Adelaide poem because it’s been at all the Adelaide festivals, and [all the] the oral creation evenings where I played it shaped it.

It is this spirit of questioning and open conversation that Guerrera hopes will be displayed throughout Context.

“In Adelaide, we accept the status quo, it’s comfortable here,” he reflects. “And so people think we don’t have to change things – but we have so much to change.”

Context Writers Festival, presented in partnership by Writers SA and the City of Adelaide, will be held at the Adelaide Municipal Library from October 8-10.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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