We caught up with Socrate to find out more about his experience with us as part of our community engagement program.
Rarely is art’s power to build personal confidence and community spirit better expressed than at the Edmund Rice Centre WA in Mirrabooka.
For 16-year-old Socrate Kimamura, it has widened his future horizons and fed his appetite to pursue a career as a performer, filmmaker and writer.
‘Since I was young, people told me I can be an actor, so I want to start now,’ Socrate says.
The Balga Senior High School student, born in a Malawi refugee camp and living in Perth since he was 11, has been part of the Edmund Rice Centre creative arts program for the past year.
As a talented junior footy player, he's found fun and fitness on the field with the Edmund Rice Centre but it is on the stage or with a camera where his dreams lay.
At the 2020 Perth Festival, Socrate galvanised his emergent artistic ambition with the support of leading artists, role models and mentors through the Festival’s Partner Schools Program.
Edmund Rice Youth Programs Coordinator Bellamore Ndayikeze says the Festival delivered a “whirlwind of insight” to the 45 young Edmund Rice participants, who include refugees new to Australia and Aboriginal children in the northern suburbs.
The Festival seeks to overcome barriers for underrepresented and marginalised communities such as cost, transport and “not-for-us” cultural uncertainties over venues and programming. Participants attend dress rehearsals, join in artist workshops and receive discounted and complimentary tickets to performances. Many had never stepped inside a theatre before.
Socrates and Bellamore
‘They were buzzing from the experiences’
‘They just don’t normally get those opportunities and many of them kept asking me afterwards that they really want to do it again because it was exciting and energetic and totally out of the ordinary.' says Bellamore.
‘It inspires them to rethink what they can do with their lives because they have seen for themselves what is possible.’
Socrates saw several shows, including a concert and talk from South Sudanese pop-star refugee Gordon Koang and the landmark Indigenous productions Hecate and Bran Nue Dae.
‘Hecate was my first theatre show in Australia,’ he says. ‘Gee, it was very good. It was so interesting to learn about the Noongar Language.’
He also took part in a Noongar-language workshop with Hecate adaptor-director and Perth Festival Associate Artist Kylie Bracknell (Kaarljilba Kaardn).
‘The Edmund Rice Centre WA is full of care-taking, love and passion for youth, enabling me to have a genuine and uplifting connection circle with the kids and thorough, heartfelt discussions about the home we share – Noongar boodjar,’ Kylie says.
There was much to discuss, particularly around the world-premiere of Hecate, the shared impacts of colonisation, language dispossession and resilience, youth and language culture.
‘A lot of the group still speak their mother tongue so we incorporated an exchange of words, so to speak, and the smaller Noongar kids helped share and translate some Noongar names for birds and animals,’ Kylie says.
‘It was very empowering for the future arts creators, poets, performers and dreamers, and I hope they will one day contribute to Perth Festival’s program content.’
Hecate Noongar Language Workshop with Kylie Bracknell
Socrate was also thrilled to meet and learn from Gordon Koang
The acclaimed Melbourne-based South Sudanese musician who performed at Fremantle Arts Centre as part of the 2020 Festival.
‘A legend can tell a new legend is coming up,’ Socrate laughs. ‘He told me to focus and don’t listen to what everyone else is telling you. He told me to keep doing what I am doing, especially in acting. I’ve never seen a black person to person in that big crowd in Australia, I was the only black kid sitting with so many white people. I was like, wow.’
Socrate’s Festival experience led to his acceptance into the Ngalaka Daa Ensemble, a joint performance training initiative of the WA Youth Theatre and Yirra Yaakin theatre companies, he received some support from Poppy Van Oorde-Grainger a film producer who has been guiding Socrate though this journey.
Bellamore says that happened because Socrates and the other Partner Schools participants from Edmund Rice Centre WA attended Hecate and met the creatives for themselves.
‘The fact that Perth Festival gave them the opportunity to be there and meet the actors and producers – people who are passionate and motivated – it really inspired them,’ she says.
For Bellamore, 2020 has been her third year of participating in the Festival through the Connect and Creative Learning programs.
Bellamore was 10 when she and her family arrived in Australia from war-torn Burundi after seven years in a Tanzanian refugee camp. She has since gone on to become an athlete, AFL coach, community leader, hip-hop artist, creative director and was a 2019 Western Australian Youth Week Ambassador and recently appointed as the Youth Ministerial Advisory Council Chair.
Like Socrate, Bellamore was inspired by meeting Koang and seeing him perform. In fact, she was asked to host Koang’s pre-concert Q&A because of their shared experiences as musicians and asylum-seekers.
The experience affirmed her belief that art and music are pathways towards appreciating other people’s stories and lives. ‘I came away and told kids be creative with your culture and keep practicing your art. I also produced a song on that day myself.’
Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) young people need these encounters because they rarely see ‘people of colour on such platforms to connect with as artists and people’, Bella says. You can’t be what you can’t see.
'Art is such an underestimated thing when it comes to human life,’ she says. ‘It is a heavily neglected area in CALD and migrant and disadvantaged communities.
‘The potential it has once explored – you can see a lot of young people who are able to absolutely create positive change for the future. Not only for them, but for the people around them across the generations.
‘I am an example. I have been given opportunities and mentorships to explore my creativity. I used to be in their position.
‘We gave Socrate this opportunity. He is hungry to do it more and who knows what that hunger will create unless you are given more of it.’
Click here to find out more about our Connect program.
Article written by Stephen Bevis, Communications Manager.
Image credits: Socrate and Bellamore, Anna Robbins Bevis; Hecate Noongar Workshop, Linda Dunjey