Five Questions with Kamarra Bell Wykes

Kamarra Bell-Wykes (Yagera/Butchulla/European) is the director of the reading of STOLEN on the 24th of May to acknowledge National Reconciliation Week.  In 2017, Kamarra was appointed ILBIJERRI’s Creative Director and works as a playwright, performer, director and dramaturge across mainstage and community productions. Kamarra is dedicated to the development of First Nations ways of working across all of her practices.

Q1/  What is it about STOLEN that excites you as a director?
The opportunity to direct STOLEN is such an honour  as I played the role of Ann in the Victorian VCE tour for many years and the work and the experience of performing for so many  young people that had never heard of the Stolen Generation had such a huge effect on me. STOLEN provides so much opportunity for actors through its character transformations, time/place jumps, song, rhythm and movement. Despite its very serious content and message its actually an incredibly fun and enjoyable show to work with.

Q2/  What can audiences expect when seeing the reading?
The magic of STOLEN is that no matter how old you are or where you come from, every single person that sees it finds something they connect with. For First Nations Peoples this is even more so. These are the stories of our old people, of our grandparents and our Aunty’s and Uncles. Whether we like it or not these are stories that have shaped our collective experience. This is just as important for non-indigenous people as the Stolen Generations are part of our shared history. Just from different sides of the fence. I believe that STOLEN has a power because every single time a different Aboriginal person plays one of these characters, they bring with them the perspective of their families and their ancestors which the role is born anew through. I think having the opportunity to have these amazing young people and community members bring their voices and with them their collective old people, the audience can expect to experience a moving and powerful night of theatre seeped in the truth of the historical experiences of the area.

Q3/  The play has been around for 20 years – why do we still need to see/hear it?
The Stolen Generations are still a very recent part of our history and the trans-generational trauma created by these experiences still resonates within our communities and families today. With rates like 2 in 5 Aboriginal children removed from their families (and in some areas even higher) I don’t think there are any First Nations Australians that haven’t been affected in some way. It is crucial that upcoming generations of First Nations and Non-First Nations Australians understand what our old people went through and the impact this had on us. Unfortunately, the rates of First Nations children in care are now reportedly at higher rates than during the official Stolen Generations, this story is not over.

Q4/  You’ve worked in the region before – What do you love about working here?
Its always such a refreshing change to get out the big smoke and get close to the big river. Its such beautiful country up there and to be able to combine my love of theatre and being in the bush is a pretty special privilege. HotHouse is an amazing venue with incredible programs and phenomenal staff and for me it’s a bit of aspiration. I would love to see something like this taking place in my own community. Im always so blown out by the enthusiasm, talent and powerful voices I encounter when working in the space and I have no doubt this experience is going to be just as special.

I am always super excited about staying at the FarmHouse as well, as I believe this such in iconic space in Australia’s art landscape and is filled with so much magic. When I stay there, I know I’m sleeping in the shadows of Kings.

Q5/  What was the piece of theatre that made you think  – “yep that’s for me”?
There are a lot of pieces that have this impact on me but I think most recently I would have to say Future D. Fidel’s Prize Fighter , Dee and Cordelius’ SHIT, and ILBIJERRI’s Beautiful One Day. I think the mark of a great play is one that you still think about years after seeing it and I would have to say that of David Brown’s Eating Ice cream with your eyes closed which I actually saw at HotHouse many many moons ago.