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Hear from the emerging artists from 'ARTSLAB: HERE WE ARE AGAIN'

ArtsLab is Shopfront’s flagship emerging artists program, a six month residency that provides young artists a chance to try new things in an environment where they are supported to take creative risk, engage in their own practice and create a new work with professional mentorship.

This year, the program extended into West and North Western Sydney, doubling the amount of artists able to engage in the program and providing artists from Western Sydney an opportunity to present their work to the industry in Sydney.

The first ever cohort of Western Sydney ArtsLabbers are about to present their works, this week at 107 Projects, Redfern. We chatted to each of them about their work, the process they’ve undergone to make it to this point, and the importance of supporting indie artists!

ARTSLAB: HERE WE ARE AGAIN Wed 23rd November – Sunday 27th November / 107 Projects, Redfern


UNKISSED by Sarah Carroll - Your first kiss is weird. Awkward eye contact, the lean-in, do you close your eyes? Tongue? It's not like the movies. Sarah wouldn’t know. She has never been kissed and is not even sure if she wants to be. Unkissed is a monologue about one woman’s quest to figure out how to have the perfect kiss but where do you find that information? The internet of course. Will Sarah have the perfect kiss? Come and share your deepest darkest secrets. XOXO

Image by Josh Morris

DALO CHIPS AND IMLI CHUTNEY by Varuna Naicker “What do you want from me!”…a question Kavita, Piyal and Amma, three generations of a Fijian-Indian family living in Australia ask themselves daily. Kavita didn’t think her husband would ask for a divorce at 50. Piyal couldn’t have known the love of her life would be married to someone else when they fell in love. And Amma never even entertained the idea that her daughter and the granddaughter she helped raise would bring shame on the family. And yet... here we are. The 1 hour play, Dalo Chips and Imli Chutney, scrapes off the gilding on the classic immigrant story and examines the cost of living up to the model minority myth in a way that makes you chuckle, while reminding of the worst and best of your family.

Image by Josh Morris

WHISPERS AND TEA by Saarah Hanif and Sivani Yaddanapudi Navigating the world with two contrasting identities, each cultivating different emotions, can be quite lonely if not shared with others. Whispers and Tea captures the essence of those balancing the two worlds of South Asian culture and the LGBTQ+ community. It highlights their words and thoughts on their identities using film and photography to provide a sense of shared space for those who seek it.

Image by Josh Morris

Where did your art come from? Or what would you say has inspired your work?

Sarah Carroll - Unkissed was an idea that sparked during the pandemic and through the app Tik Tok. I was a late bloomer not having my first kiss till I was 20. I didn't really have a second thought about it until I was scrolling my curated For You Page and was stumbling across videos of others who also were 'late bloomers.' I then kind of went down this deep rabbit hole of being obsessed with kissing... and the start of this show was born.

Saarah Hanif - My art comes from experiences in high school and university of being a young woman of colour and being the only one that looked and spoke different to those around me. I sought out connection from others that wasn’t there and this translated into creating art for myself and individuals that felt the same way. This notion ties in with being queer and non white, there really isn’t a visible community or groups for us and especially no art showcasing us by us - Whispers and Tea is inspired by those ancestors and people around that may have felt at one point quite lonely and unsure of themselves - it’s reassurance that we belong.

Sivani Yaddanapudi - My art came from what I missed in my childhood and has come from a place where I was not able to find a sense of belonging and so I aimed to create my own. The history of my homeland is what inspires me, I want to teach and deconstruct the frameworks, ideals and damage employed by the British settlement in India.

Varuna Naicker - My art was inspired by seeing my grandmother, aunties, mothers, and sisters in our community grow older. They all share the same connection to this community and culture but they do have different views of it, whether it was a blessing or imposition. I wanted to tease some of the thoughts out and through that Dalo Chips and Imli Chutney was born.

What do you want audiences to take from your piece?

Sarah Carroll - At the moment I'm really interested in creating work that makes audiences feel joy and laugh. I think after the past two years we have been through a lot and I like to create these worlds that let audiences forget about their own life for an hour. I also hope this piece makes audiences reflect on kissing and why we put so much pressure on this 'first kiss' moment.

Saarah Hanif - I want audiences to feel a sense of belonging as well of understanding, understand the incredible culture provided by Queer South Asian people. This culture has been carefully curated over thousands of years and has now become at a loss, take the presence this art gives you and take it home, speak about it with others.

Sivani Yaddanapudi - As audiences view my work and take it in, I want them to understand the disconnection from culture that many South Asian and especially Queer individuals experience. Our culture is vibrant, colourful, and has historically been welcoming of differing identities. The audiences must know that we are way more than what has been portrayed of us on mainstream media, we are proud, versatile and will continue to showcase our stories. Whispers and Tea is a homage to the ones that have come before us, I have made this film to create a safe space for my inner child and also the Queer babies who have never felt seen, audiences are to take away the feelings in which myself and other individuals experience in regards to this work.

Varuna Naicker - No one is right and no one is wrong. Our environment shapes us more than we truly realise and what we can do is just make the best out of ourselves. I want the audiences to be touched but think about the lives of the people around them and maybe come to question, how they came to be the way they are.

Why should audiences support independent art more?

Sarah Carroll - There is so much new and emerging talent creating work in independent theatre and often these artists don't get seen and it makes me really sad because to be honest I've seen some of my most favourite theatre works in the indie scene. These artists are the next generation and audiences should be investing in them. Who knows, you could say you saw the next Phoebe Waller-Bridge before they became big!?? 

Saarah Hanif - Becoming an independent artist/creative is quite daring and opens us up to much criticism. There is a rawness to being independent, it’s vulnerability. Supporting an independent artist allows for them to grow and it could just be sharing their work, liking and commenting on it, you’re supporting original work that is filled with love and dedication. Independent arts is pushing our industry forward into the future and creates impact.

Sivani Yaddanapudi - It’s important to know that art derives from community. It's from our families, it's from our ancestors, it's from the people around us. For a long time we have been pushed to the back burner and not allowed to vocalise about our art as we should be, from a young age we have been taught to connect and this is seen through independent artists. The question stands - How long do I have to wait until my voice is heard? Supporting independent art means you're listening to one's story and one's history, as much as it will create an impact, it will also foster growth within the industry for artists/creatives.

Varuna Naicker - Independent art is where the nitty gritty thoughts and art is explored and conceptualised. It's the arena that provides the most creativity and exploration, which is what I experienced here. To get some truly thought-provoking works that touch you whilst also making you think, you need to be supporting independent theatre.

What has this residency given you as an artist?

Sarah Carroll - This residency has given me the support, time and space to create Unkissed and then a platform to showcase the early development of it which has been amazing! It's also given us resources, masterclasses and industry connections which I'm so grateful for. I have also been able to create next to three other amazing artists who I'll be in touch with for years to come. That's been the cherry on top!

Saarah Hanif - The ARTSLAB Shopfront residency has provided a space and the tools to create art and express the ideas in my head without feeling restricted. With any creation of art there is lots of drafting and the stress that comes along with that was easier to in a way manage, having support and not feeling so alone was amazing to have and the residency provided that.

Sivani Yaddanapudi - This residency has given me connections that I will keep for a lifetime and I am thankful for the space in which my art will be held and listened to. The residency has made me feel that my art is important and appreciated as it is and for what it is. I'm thankful to be part of this cohort as we are all from Western Sydney and we are such a rich community. There are so many stories that come from many different households and Shopfront ARTSLAB has allowed me to beautifully delve into four individuals as share our art.

Varuna Naicker -This residency has given me a taste of what it would be like to develop a piece from scratch and for that I would be forever grateful. It also provided me with a wonderful mentor who was instrumental in my growth and development as a creative, great technical support, as well as connected me with some other amazing Western Sydney artists. I'm glad I applied!

If you could summarise your piece in one word, what would that be?

Sarah Carroll - Chaotic. If you know me and my work you will agree this is very on brand and I'm embracing it.

Saarah Hanif – Comforting

Sivani Yaddanapudi – Seen

Varuna Naicker – Argumentative



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