Asian Australian Artists

A Profile Of Annette Shun Wah – OzAsia Festival’s Artistic Director

Within the Australian entertainment industry the name Annette Shun Wah is a big name and one which has been around for a long time. Her career has been a long one and it is still going from stride to stride ranging across radio, television, publishing and theatre. Her creative works is always represented through arts such as music through The Noise and Studio 22 and experimental arts and film on Eat Carpet and Imagine.

Image via OzAsia Festival

Now, Annette is the Artistic Director for the OzAsia Festival and it is a very big one this year with lots of exhibitions, performances and events. But, let’s let Annette provide some highlights of this years festival thus far:

“Well, what I love about this year’s festival is that there is a 3 week program and all the events on the schedule I personally find interesting and/or really important. On one of the nights we saw a beautiful concept called “Bridge of Dreams” which is a collaboration between Australian and Indian musicians. Another highlight was the “The Long Walk” which was art involving the use of drones and great cinematography – placing dancers into a landscape”, said Annette.

“There is also the work of Maria Tran – a Vietnamese Australian creative from Western Sydney who will be making her theatrical debut called “Action Star”, so that is exciting and so many more awesome things to see and do, come check it out if you are in Adelaide”.

Annette has been involved with the festival for a very long time and being the 2022 Artistic Director is not her first roadshow. But how did she first get involved with the festival which continues to get better every year.

“Actually, I have been involved on and off with the festival over many years. OzAsia Festival started in 2007, and around 2008-2009 the artistic director then had invited me to be involved in various ways with some of the events for the festival, or asked for help whenever they needed suitable performances from “Contemporary Asian Australian Performance (CAAP),” mentioned Annette.

“So one year I was approached to be the artistic director, but it wasn’t till sometime towards the end of 2018 that I agreed to take it on as the time was right”.

OzAsia 2022 Opening Night (Image via Twitter)

Annette has bee doing the work, staying visible and in many ways has lead the way for a long time. Her tireless work in pushing for more representation and visibility in Australian media, entertainment and creative spaces has paved the way for many others who are doing it now. Here are some of her comments on this topic;

“It has been a long sustained effort to try and bring some change to the industry as a whole. I feel I really got engaged with the whole representation thing when I first got my television show in the 1980s – a music show called “Noise”. Prior to all this I had my career in radio, but it was really when I was on TV when the seeds of this conversation was starting”.

“Also, working with Clara Law on her 1990s film “Floating Life”, was revolutionary when it came out at the time and it really bought out the need for more representation and visibility. At the same time, within the Australian entertainment industry those like myself faced discrimination within which sadly still exists today. Even though I was nominated for an AFI Award, Australian agents wouldn’t take me on because in their eyes they already had 1 – 2 Chinese background actors on their books, but it was ok for them to have 60 other white actors. “

“Through the work with CAAP, over the past decade we have seen a growing number of highly skilled performers, writers and stage directors, and I think particularly this year we have seen more stage plays which feature or are about Asian Australian stories. I feel I have contributed to creating this change and I see my role as the person who clears the way and barriers for the next generation. What we as Asian Australians want is simple and that is we just want a level playing field. That is all”.

The OzAsia Festival will be running up till November 6 in various locations in Adelaide, so if you are there and get a chance go check it out. Here is the link: https://ozasia.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au .

Images via OzAsia Festival and Twitter

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