28 June 2022 22:02
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The River Project: A feeling of Maa Ganga in Sydney

As a river of sustenance in contemporary Australia, the Georges River has multiple living histories. This includes ceremony, ritual and leisure, as ascribed to it by various communities who live near it.

A walk along the Georges River, Casula, with performance, video, installation, sound and tree planting in partnership with Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre is being presented by the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, STARTTS and artist Jiva Parthipan.

The River project conceived by Jiva Parthipan is one of more than 330 artworks by 89 participants invited to participate in the 2022 edition of the Biennale of Sydney. As cultural development officer at STARTTS and an advocate for cultural diversity in arts in Australia, Jiva Parthipan’s work mediates artists from diverse emerging communities.

The 23rd Biennale of Sydney (2022) titled rīvus is articulated around a series of conceptual wetlands situated along waterways of the Gadigal, Burramatagal and Cabrogal peoples.

“Too often refugees are told to re-enact their refugee narratives in their art. Whilst this is also important, I believe as future Australians – their cultural practices need to be explored in a nuanced manner with all other communities to redefine Australia and locate them in the centre of art practice within the Australian cultural landscape,”

said Jiva Parthipan, co-director of THE RIVER PROJECT.
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Like a river of sustenance in contemporary Australia, the Georges River has multiple living histories. This includes ceremony, ritual and leisure, as ascribed to it by various communities who live near it.

The River Project (Image Source: NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors)
The River Project (Image Source: NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors)

From Indigenous usage and histories to the baptisms of the Mandaeans, a pre-Christian ethnoreligious group from Iraq, through Anglo Australians who use it for leisure and Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs who use it for the immersion of cremated ashes and other ritual purposes.

The Mandaeans in Sydney, from a refugee background, mostly residing in the Liverpool area, see the river as a reimagining of Yardena, after the River Jordan, whilst for Hindus, it is the River Maa Ganga (Ganges) in India, it has various significances.

Georges River is the name given to it by British colonisers after King George III. Using this as a starting point and mediated by contemporary art practice, THE RIVER PROJECT will engage with Dharug, Mandean, Hindu and Anglo Australian artists and communities to understand the place making traditions along the Georges River.

THE RIVER PROJECT is open to the public for two days only commencing Saturday 4 June and Sunday 5 June from 3–5 pm.

Tickets are strictly limited and registration is essential via The Biennale of Sydney

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Since its inception in 1973, the Biennale of Sydney has provided a platform for art and ideas, showcasing the work of nearly 1,900 artists from more than 100 countries.

Today it is considered one of the leading international contemporary art events, recognised for commissioning and presenting innovative, thought-provoking art from Australia and around the globe.

The 23rd Biennale of Sydney, titled rīvus, meaning ‘stream’ in Latin, will feature new work and commissions responding to water ecology and relationships with the natural world.

Audiences will experience large-scale immersive installations, site-specific projects and living works by international participants.

THE RIVER PROJECT has been commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts, Create NSW, Crown Resorts Foundation and Packer Family Foundation.

The 23rd Biennale of Sydney runs from 12 March – 13 June 2022.
STARTTS (NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors) was established in 1988 in Sydney.

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[email protected] is the arts and cultural wing of NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors. It develops, produces, curates and enables arts practice with refugee communities and artists in partnership with mainstream venues and organisations in Australia.

Jiva Parthipan is a curator, director and community artist based in Sydney and working internationally. Trained in Classical Indian dance, gaining his Masters in Performance from Goldsmith College, London, Jiva was the first male dancer to perform with Shobana Jeyasingh, the pioneering British Indian contemporary dance company.

Jiva’s multidisciplinary performance works have been seen at Tate Modern; ICA London; International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts, Paris / Dublin; National Review of Live Arts, Glasgow; Performance Space, Sydney; Bone Festival Switzerland; Jomba Festival South Africa to name a few.

Since migrating to Australia, my credits as a creative producer include Handfed, MCA; Little Baghdad with Powerhouse Youth Theatre and the Australian Museum; Dance Africa Dance, Riverside, Parramatta. As cultural development officer at STARTTS in Western Sydney, Jiva‘s work mediates artists from diverse emerging communities.

As an advocate for cultural diversity in arts in Australia, Jiva was recently a panellist at the APAC conference and on Radio National’s Big Ideas. He is an alumnus of Australia Council’s leadership programme and in 2020 curated PARAI YAH! for the Biennale of Sydney, and co-curated with Nina Miall OLDER THAN LANGUAGE at Salamanca Arts Centre.

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