Australia marks 50th annual arts festival

The 50th annual Australian Latvian Arts Festival (Austrālijas latviešu 50. Kultūras dienas), a celebration of Latvian identity in Australia, took place in Melbourne from Dec. 26-31.

The festival included a range of events, from the light to the serious, from the indoor to the outdoor, from those meant for children, to those for youth and adults.

Among musical events was a Dec. 26 spiritual concert in the Lutheran Church of the Holy Cross, the Dec. 27 opening ceremony in Williamstown Town Hall, and the Dec. 28 youth concert in the Latvian House in Elwood, a suburb of Melbourne.

Theatre performances also were a part of the festival. For children, there was “Kraukšķīša piedzīvojumi” (The Adventures of Kraukšķītis), a play based on the story Kraukšķītis by Margarita Stāraste about a gingerbread man. “John’s Night,” meanwhile, took a serious look at issues of cultural maintenance and change over two generations. “Lolitas brīnumputns,” a classic play by Anna Brigadere, also showcased the talents of Latvian-Australian actors.

Other activities included an exhibit of art, photography and crafts. Among artists featured were painter Imants Tillers of Australia and photographer Maija McDougal of England.

A folk dancing performance explored Latvian mythology and featured dancers from seven groups from four Austrlian communities, including Sprigulītis of Canberra, Jautrais pāris of Sydney, Auseklītis of Adelaide, and Sprīdīšu saime, Piektais ritenis and Ritenītis, all of Melbourne, as well as pupils from the Latvian school in Melbourne.

Other events included meetings of various Latvian organizations as well as competition in basketball, darts and novuss.

The Latvian Youth Association of Australia organized a series of gatherings and entertainment to run in conjunction with the festival. The highlight of the youth association’s “Saviesīgie 2004” activities was the Dec. 30 “Triple Bill Extravaganza,” which featured musical performances by modern and traditional groups from Australia and Latvia.

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD from the University of Sussex, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, author and translator/ editor/ proofreader from Latvian into English of an eclectic mix of publications of different genres.

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