Arnhem Land 1988
Nanjing ProjectsJuggling the Data

The Plane to Maningrida

On 14 July 1988, the company flew west to Maningrida, at the mouth of the Mann River, a community that is one of the most linguistically diverse on the planet. That night, following the afternoon show, they slept in the school’s home science room.

The next morning, they flew down to Katherine where they performed outdoors at the historic Springvale Homestead. Then it was on to Darwin and then Alice Springs. Two weeks later, the company was in Edinburgh for a twenty-show appearance at the Assembly Rooms as part of the Festival.

The legacy of the 1988 Arnhem Land tour was profound for Circus Oz, revitalising the company and providing its members with a new perspective on their work. Circus Oz in fact returned to Arnhem Land and Central Australia soon after, in 1993. They travelled to Tennant Creek, Yuendumu and Hermannsburg, Maningrida, Milingimbi, Galiwin’ku and Yirrkala. Anni Davey, who managed the subsequent Queensland leg of the 1993 tour, remembers seeing the company after touching down in Mount Isa. “You could see their faces shining. These acrobats got off the plane with all of that spirit in them.”

Poster for the Circus Oz 1988 season at the Edinburgh Festival. Theatre and Dance Platform
Circus Oz raise a new Australian flag. Theatre and Dance Platform.

These tours also had an impact on at least some in the communities they visited. Joshua Bond grew up in Galiwin’ku and remembers seeing the 1988 performance as an eight-year-old. “They set up a tiny little show back then, and that had a massive impact on me,” he recalled for an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in 2013.

After performing with troupes such as Queensland’s Circus Monoxide, Bond moved into arts management. He joined Circus Oz as an indigenous programs co-ordinator in 2011 and helped create BLAKflip, the company’s indigenous pathways programme.

Over the next three decades, the company would tour to many other remote parts of the country, including the Kimberley and outback Queensland. And their national tours always include detours from the main highways and flyways to visit remote and First Nations communities.

The simplicity, directness and flexibility of the Arnhem Land and Central Australia shows provided the company with a model – and a desire – for engaging with communities that might otherwise be neglected, that had been disenfranchised, displaced or excluded.

Group photograph from the 1997 tour through the Kimberley. Theatre and Dance Platform