OzAsia Moon Lantern Festival
Article | By Ben-Hur Winter 14-10-13

OzAsia Moon Lantern Festival, 19 September Elder Park (final edited) Often dubbed the Festival State and described as the elegant cultural capital of South Australia, Adelaide hosts numerous world class cultural events including the Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Fringe, WOMADelaide, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Adelaide Film Festival, Come Out Festival (youth), Feast Festival (gay and lesbian), Carnevale (Italian), Glendi (Greek), Schutzenfest (German), Indofest (Indonesian) and Tet Festival (Vietnamese) to name a few. Founded by Colonel Light in 1836 as Australia’s first freely settled colony, Adelaide is also home to the OzAsia Festival, an annual culture and arts fair set beside the Torrens River and surrounding areas with a distinctly Austral-Asian flavour, held this year from 13-29 September.

Presented by the Adelaide Festival Centre, Australia’s first performing arts hub, the OzAsia program now in its seventh season, integrates Australian and Asian artists while representing a unique cross‐section of traditional and contemporary cultures of Asia. With Malaysia as the theme country in 2013, highlights included a concert by none other than the legendary Kamahl at Her Majesty’s Theatre, ‘Ontosoroh’ a Javanese dance-theatre work at the Space Theatre choreographed by Australian-Indonesian dance artist Ade Suharto, and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards Showcase at the Mercury Cinema which featured among others ‘Thy Womb’, an award winning film from the Philippines starring leading Filipina actress Nora Aunor and directed by Brillante Mendoza.

OzAsia’s key event from year to year is the Moon Lantern Festival held in Elder Park on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It is supported by Arts SA, the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) together with Multicultural SA and the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission (SAMEAC). Bursting with cultural activity, educational workshops and youth performance groups, the feature of this free community event is the Moon Lantern Parade in which 1,000 participants including school children from across South Australia, community groups and partners each parade their large glowing moon lanterns in a traditional cultural celebration of the harvest moon.

Encouragingly, we had two groups representing the Filipino community, namely Sampaguita Dance Group in their third year of participating, and the Filipino Settlement Coordinating Council of SA (FSCCSA) featuring Anahata Community Dance Collective. FSCCSA is the recognised peak body by the Filipino Communities Council of Australia (FILCCA) representing Filipino organisations in SA. Created in 2003, it has been organised primarily to assist in the settlement and welfare of Filipino individuals and families, particularly new arrivals/migrants to South Australia. It also promotes harmony, peace and co-operation among all groups and communities.

For this special project FSCCSA worked in conjunction with Anahata Community Management and Development Services, a volunteer led, artist run association engaging in (local/international) arts and cultural production through peer support and collaboration, cultural exchange and community cultural development. As part of the main stage performances our group performed a modern cultural dance called ‘Sayaw ng buwan’ (Moon Dance) choreographed by aspiring neo-ethnic choreographer Ben-Hur Winter in collaboration with performers selected from the community and dancers from the Adelaide College of the Arts including; Karlee Naumann, Abby Durbridge, Mikka Ewens, Alex Charman, Ellicia Britton, Konstanz Symeonakis, Joy Goodridge and Susan Canonoy (vocals). This dance was inspired by the expressive mimetic gestures of Linggisan or bird dance, which forms part of a traditional dance style from the southern Philippines called Pangalay meaning ‘gift’ or ‘offering’. This solemn and sacred social dance first started appearing in the Philippines in the 14 century as the performance arts, dance and music gained status within societies.

Exploring themes such as kinship, harmony, posterity and love of country while reflecting the genteel and peaceful nature of its people, the performance combined traditional actions and symbolic motifs with modern dance elements drawn from ideas about contemporary life. The dancers rehearsed for five weeks prior to the OzAsia Festival and performed on the day to syncopated tribal drumming played live by local artist Bortier Okoe (www.africansoul.com.au). A special thanks must be mentioned to the kind and charitable donors as well as to FSCCSA for sponsoring the dancers’ costumes which reflected the traditional adornment and style of the region.

The later part of the program and the traditional lantern parade were cancelled due to weather conditions, much to the disappointment of the many Asian ethnic communities and large audience that had gathered. Unfortunately our acclaimed Sampaguita Dance Group did not get to perform their Rice Festival dance. Organisers were concerned about public safety when a bad storm hit Elder Park. Festival director Jacinta Thompson posted online “It is disappointing that the communities and schools' hard work will not be seen this year, but we thank everyone for their hard work and effort in the lead-up to this event."

Through constant urbanisation and with innumerable societal advancements, the Festival State is certainly alive with cultural and linguistic diversity. Likewise, looking to the future and in the spirit of community, despite the sudden bouts of wet weather, the OzAsia Festival, with its sophistication and multicultural appeal of hosting events such as the Moon Lantern Festival, shall continue as an engaging highlight of our cultural calendar, worthy of revelry by family and friends, as well as the enjoyment of the wider community.