Australia prides itself on its multiculturalism and sharing these cultures with other people of our community. With much of the Ethiopia-born population in Victoria residing in the Western suburbs, it seems fitting that one of the performances on show at the Big West Festival, Mefetehe, is by renowned, award-winning Ethiopian writer/director Tesfaye Gebrehana.
In Mefetehe, a group of teenagers face off with the older generations in their family and community as they create a revolutionary plan to build a new recreational facility. With this narrative, Gebrehana explores the differing opinions within the Ethipoian community regarding change and isolation. "It focuses on the broken connection between the older generations and the younger. It discusses the problems going on in our community and how we can come together to find a 'Mefetehe' (solution)," he says.
Gebrehana hopes that Mefetehe will help the community with the social issues they may be facing, by bringing them out in to the public sphere and creating discussion. "Before writing the script, I ran a non-formal interview with the people who have been in Australia for over a decade. As they have been here that long, it was good to get their perspectives, as they have also contributed in some way to benefit the community (ran shops, worked with the Church, worked with the youth…)," he explains. "With my observations and the information I had gathered, I wrote the synopsis to Mefetehe. I showed the synopsis to the people I am currently working with, and with their support, I wrote the script."
Despite Mefetehe being performed in Amharic (with English surtitles) and intended for an Ethiopian audience, there are still some important messages that non-Ethiopian audiences can appreciate. "Many Europeans or other migrants have their community centres and markets and make sure their children learn to speak the language by sending them to school on Saturday. They run festivals and activities for their own people. They are very strong and have established so much for themselves and that's what we need. We need them to help us do the same for our own community," Gebrehana says.
"I find it worrying when families come to Australia but choose not to educate their children about their culture or language. The way I see it, many of the young adults in our community are facing an identity crisis due to us not having our own centre where they are able to go to express their interest. That's why I wish to build a place called 'Fiker Cultural Centre' so that the youth have a place to call their own." Sounds like a mefetehe that many people could benefit from.
Venue: Flemington Community Centre, 25 Mount Alexander Rd, Flemington
Season: 22 - 29 November | Sun 7pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: Door only
Further Information: Performance in Amharic with English surtitles