OzAsia Festival and the In Other Words program finished on a high last night, with more than 180,000 attendances across 190 indoor and outdoor events, showcasing the best of Asian and Asian Australian performance across a wide range of genres including theatre, music, dance, comedy, community events, literature, and visual art.
Audiences applauded throughout OzAsia Festival, which ran from October 19 to November 5, under the artistic direction of Annette Shun Wah. The festival featured more than 300 national and international artists from 13 countries, and included 3 world premieres, 7 Australian premieres, and 9 Adelaide premieres.
A packed program of events across 18 days showcased numerous sold out performances from shows including, MotherTongue, MotherLand, 1988, Saudara Sound System, AnimeGO!, Buried Teabowl – OKUNI and A Notional History. Audiences were asked to explore the notion of freedom by being on the Festival Theatre stage with the dancers in Infinitely Closer and they were touched by the poignant message in I Swallowed a Moon Made of Iron from Canadian composer and performer Njo Kong Kie.
OzAsia Festival opened on Thursday, October 19, and celebrated opening week attendances of 85,000 across four days of inspiring performances including the Australian premiere of indigenous Taiwanese contemporary dance tiaen tiamen Episode 1 at Dunstan Playhouse and family favourite Moon Lantern Trail, which attracted more than 35,000 attendees at Tarntanya Wama/Pinky Flat.
Moon Lantern Trail featured two new lanterns this year including Nicky Tsz Tung Li’s Jade Rabbit, and Jaydenlee Tong’s Kurdany Tangku (Rainbow Serpent) which was specially created in celebration of Adelaide Festival Centre’s 50th anniversary.
Adelaide Festival Centre CEO & Artistic Director Douglas Gautier AM: “I would like to congratulate Annette Shun Wah and the team on the success of this year’s OzAsia Festival, the excellent attendance numbers are a testament to her vision and hard work. As Annette’s Artistic Director tenure comes to a close, all of us at Adelaide Festival Centre thank her for her tireless work and dedication to Australian/Asian cultural engagement and we look forward to continuing to work with Annette in her new role as a program consultant on OzAsia Festival.”
At the festival’s final weekend, Annette Shun Wah was presented with the inaugural OzAsia Award which recognises outstanding contribution to Australian/Asian cultural engagement. As Annette’s tenure as Artistic Director of OzAsia Festival concludes, it was also announced that she will continue to be involved with future festivals in a programming consultancy role. Annette will work closely with Executive Producer of OzAsia Festival, Joon-Yee Kwok whose role expands to include taking the artistic lead for next year’s festival program.
OzAsia Festival 2023 Artistic Director Annette Shun Wah: “My role as Artistic Director of OzAsia Festival has been an incredibly rewarding time for me, and with the support of Adelaide Festival Centre and the OzAsia Festival team, I’ve been able to achieve much of what I set out to do three and a half years ago.
“There is no other major festival that has Asian and Asian Australian artists, writers and experiences at the heart of everything it programs. The connections and relationships on behalf of the festival, both domestically and internationally have grown and flourished, and stands the OzAsia Festival in good stead for the future. This year’s program shows the depth and brilliance of artists and artistic works that are all too rarely available to Australian audiences and sets a high benchmark. I feel I am leaving on a high.
“I am also thrilled that Joon-Yee Kwok will take on the programming of OzAsia Festival. We’ve worked so closely and so well together and share the same ideals and hopes for this festival, and I look forward to seeing its evolution under her leadership.”
OzAsia Festival concluded at the weekend with the return of writing and ideas program In Other Words, under the curatorship of Jennifer Wong with guest curators Sami Shah and Durkhanai Ayubi. More than 27 free sessions were presented by 60 of Asia and Australia’s leading contemporary writers and thinkers including 2023 Miles Franklin Award winner, Shankari Chandran (Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens) covering topics such as politics, memoir, romance, poetry, travel, fiction, food and more.
Proving popular, the much loved and always hilarious Closing Night Debate, saw teams captained by comedians Jason Chong and Sami Shah arguing for or against the subject That Australia Needs More Tiger Parents. The winning team was decided by audience applause and saw Jason Chong’s team, arguing for the negative side, take out the esteemed prize (bragging rights).
In Other Words, Program Curator Jennifer Wong: “The gathering of writers from around Australia and Asia had real school reunion vibes, despite many writers meeting for the first time in Adelaide. The audiences, too, were abuzz with chatter, and it was a delight to see them welcome the writers with such enthusiasm. What a joy to be part of three days of discovery and endless conversations, that will no doubt carry on long after this weekend.”
This year’s festival also saw the return of audience favourite, The Special Comedy Comedy Special hosted by Sami Shah with a full house at Dunstan Playhouse enjoying a night of laughs from a stellar bill of Asian Australian comedians, and Bubble Tea Garden which took over Festival Plaza from November 4 and 5, celebrating the beloved Taiwanese delicacy that has taken the world by storm.
Minister for Arts the Hon. Andrea Michaels MP: “With more than 180,000 attendees at this year’s OzAsia festival, the event has again been an enormous success for South Australia.
“The Malinauskas Government is proud to support this fabulous festival and I congratulate Annette Sun Wah and her team for their incredible efforts to deliver such an important and fun event that brings people together and promotes Australian and Asian cultural connections.”
Crowd favourite Lucky Dumpling Market saw foodies enjoying the very best in Asian delights, with more than 23 vendors selling 350,000 dumplings, whilst crowds listened and danced to the hottest acts from Adelaide, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore with free performances at the Lucky Beats stage.
OzAsia Festival 2024 Artistic and Executive Producer Joon-Yee Kwok: “Having produced two OzAsia Festivals under Annette Shun Wah's artistic directorship, I am deeply honoured to be stepping into her enormous shoes and continuing the work we've done together in cultural engagement between Asia and Australia and making space for Asian Australian artists and communities.
“Annette is known to many Asian Australian artists as a fairy godmother, and she has certainly made many of my dreams come true. I wish to thank Annette for her friendship and guidance for so many years and being a champion for me and many other Asian Australian artists. I am looking forward to working with her in her new role.”
Arts-lovers can still catch OzAsia Festival exhibitions Misty Mountain, Shining Moon at Art Gallery South Australia until Sunday 12 November, exploring the beauty of the Japanese landscape as represented by some of the world’s most celebrated artists, and Have You Eaten? at Children’s Artspace until Saturday 9 December, a collaboration between leading contemporary artist Truc Truong and local students, examining how food and cultural food experiences bring people together and make lasting memories.
OzAsia Festival will return in 2024 from October 24 to November 10, with updates available at ozasia.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au