Tongues wag with multicultural poetry

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Visiting performer Filipino-Australian, spoken-word artist Andrew Cox.

WHEN it comes to multiculturalism, words matter. 

No one knows that as much as Canberra poet Jacqui Malins, who has been chipping away at the coalface for four years now running the Mother Tongue Multilingual Poetry initiative.

Its first airing was a modest affair at the National Multicultural Festival Fringe in 2016 but now, in collaborations with the ACT Bilingual Education Alliance, the Canberra Academy of Languages and the National Multicultural Festival, it’s still going strong, with a line-up of spoken poems this year in Mongolian, Xhosa, Serbian, Hindi, Persian and Bosnian, showing that Anglo poetry is just one of many traditions and that poetry, the oldest of all literary forms, is unlikely to die out any time soon.

MC and development scientist-poet Asha Naznin.

MC’d by development scientist-poet Asha Naznin, the language showcase will feature, for the first time, a theatre skit, performed in French by Joël Larrat and his theatre group. As well, there’ll be songs in Mandarin from the Chinese Australian Early Childhood Centre, songs in Spanish with Cicilia Kemezys and Jorge Bontes, and of course poetry in many languages, usually with a brief explanation in English.

This year visiting performers are Filipino-Australian, spoken-word artist Andrew Cox and Nicole Smede, a classically trained vocalist, musician and poet whose work explores her mixed Worimi, English, Irish and German ancestry.

Mother Tongue Multilingual Poetry now enjoys year-round airings at Smiths, the Front, Tuggeranong Arts Centre and elsewhere around the ACT. 

“It started in the Fringe while it lasted, then went into the main festival and grew into this broader language focus,” she says. “If poetry is food for the soul, then the many languages we speak offer a banquet.” 

The 2020 Languages Showcase, Stage 6, Petrie Plaza, between the carousel and London Circuit, 10am-12.30pm, Sunday, February 23. Immediately following the showcase, the 2020 Mother Language Walk will be opened by Multicultural Affairs Minister Chris Steel.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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