Short Black Opera helping kids express their experiences

COMING HOME: Soprano, actor composer and playwright Deborah Cheetham will be part of the Radical Voice Talk Series on Wednesday, September 20 at Four Winds.

COMING HOME: Soprano, actor composer and playwright Deborah Cheetham will be part of the Radical Voice Talk Series on Wednesday, September 20 at Four Winds.

Soprano, actor composer and playwright Deborah Cheetham has been singing for as long as she can remember.

One of her earliest memories is of singing hymns in church, and before long she was wanting to sing in the school choir and knew music would play an important role in her life.

Ahead of her workshop with 30 local children at Four Winds, she spoke about the importance the “Indigenous lens” of her program Short Black Opera For Kids provides Australian children.

“For particularly Aboriginal kids, the visual and performing arts are a way in which our people have known the world and given meaning to everything in it for a very, very long time,” Ms Cheetham said.

No matter where you come from, if you participate in Short Black Opera For Kids you will go away with a much stronger sense of what it is to be part of the longest continuing culture in the world. - Deborah Cheetham

“What this program does is applies an Indigenous microphone to the process, to amplify the experience the kids have as Aboriginal kids in their community.”

Her grandfather James Little was part of the gum leaf orchestra of Wallaga Lake. His eldest Jimmy became a national treasure, and his youngest was Deborah’s mother Monica.

“My uncle Jimmy often said to me that actually Monica had the most beautiful voice in the family, so I feel I have inherited that from my mother and she inherited it from her mother Frances,” she said.

“For me personally there is a special significance because I was born in Nowra, and it would’ve been the most natural thing for me to grow up in the Yuin community, but like so many children for over 100 years I was one of the children that was taken away.

“I didn’t know my Aboriginal family for a very long time, and so for me to come back to the land of my grandfather I feel very thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Yuin kids and other children from other language groups.

“No matter where you come from, if you participate in Short Black Opera For Kids you will go away with a much stronger sense of what it is to be part of the longest continuing culture in the world.”

Ms Cheetham will also be talking as part of the Radical Voice Talk Series at Four Winds on Wednesday, September 20.

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