Set in real time, Jimi and four generations of his family from Mabuiag Island command the stage and with a slight hand, introducing the audience to the cultural, political and social traditions of their people.
It is unique storytelling at its finest - unrushed and delivered with warmth, humour and unabashed laughter.
Jimi Bani - an actor from the Torres Straits - has created the work with co-creator and director Jason Klarwein. Jimi's grandmother and mother sit on stage for most of the performance like two revered elders who maintain credibility and faith and trust in the unravelling of their story.
Jimi's late father Adhu Dimple Bani was the Chief of Wagadagam, on Mabuiag Island in the near western part of Torres Strait. He held the responsibility to maintain and hand down the cultural practices of his people. Jimi has inherited the chieftain’s role and his challenge is to break through emerging technology much loved by his youthful son and pass on their culture. He is reminded of his father describing 'the absence of their culture': "It's like the tide. If there is no rock to hold onto when the tide changes you will be washed away."
The story is engagingly told through dance and music, creative lighting and clever use of museum style dioramas. We learn of the intrepid scholars from London who came to 'discover' the lore of these people and stole their artefacts, projected onto the set. We witness the tangible passing of language and culture to Jimi's boy, soon to become a man and who in time, will become the tenth chieftain of their common land - Wagadagam.
In the final scene a fire is lit - the tabernacle, the ritual object of cultural wisdom and practice and we are assured that is in safe hands and will live on.
The creative team bring a wealth of national and international experience to this production. It is a very fine Sydney Festival piece.
My Name Is Jimi is running at Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills, as part of the 2018 Sydney Festival until Sunday January 21st. Photo by Daniel Boud.