Blak Box – Four Winds – Blacktown

Urban Theatre Projects (UTP) is delighted to install its surround-sound pavilion, BLAK BOX at Blacktown Showgrounds in the heart of Western Sydney, from 9 January to 2 February 2019, in partnership with Blacktown Arts and Sydney Festival.

The state-of-the-art surround-sound space captured the imagination of Sydney-siders when unveiled earlier this year at Barangaroo and now a brand-new program of works – Four Winds – has been curated by Daniel Browning with elders, young people and musicians from Blacktown, Australia’s most populous First Peoples community.  Four Winds draws on the oral history and speculative future of Blacktown and Greater Western Sydney from the perspective of Blacktown Elders and teenagers.

Blak Box – Four Winds – Blacktown

Blak Box moves West for Sydney Festival 2019 with a new program of work titled Four Winds. Two Elders. Two Young People. Four Winds.Blak Box BlacktownBlacktown Showground PrecinctJanuary 9 – February 2Tickets on sale now viahttp://urbantheatre.com.au/2019/blakbox/Join the facebook event to stay up to date atBlak Box – Four Winds – Blacktown

Posted by Urban Theatre Projects on Tuesday, 23 October 2018


Four Winds explores the need for greater dialogue between younger and older Aboriginal people – both of whose voices can go unheard in the national conversation. Four Winds is both a remembering of the past and a collective vision for the future. The artists, 96 year old elder Uncle Wes Marne, Senior Darug Elder Aunty Edna Watson and teens Savarna Russell and Shaun Millwood speak to each other across a silence – a divide or gulf – engaging each other in a dialogue that bridges generational divides.  The work is informal and inquisitive, sombre and funny, gentle and insistent, powerfully highlighting the urgent need for all their voices to be heard.

This intimate inter-generational dialogue is led by respected Elders Uncle Wes Marne and Auntie Edna Watson who have lived and worked in Blacktown on Darug country for most of their lives.  Curator Daniel Browning deftly weaves the conversation with two young leaders, Savarna Russell and Shaun Millwood, who first met with Uncle Wes and Auntie Edna on a cultural camp.  In conversation, they share immense wisdom and explore the joys and challenges of contemporary living.  Songwoman, Emma Donovan, whose family have created and made music together for generations in the Blacktown area, will respond to the stories in song with Darug words gifted by Auntie Edna.   Emma will collaborate with violinist Eric Avery whose compositions seamlessly merge deep cultural traditions with classical forms.  Karen Norris brings her strong design instincts to gently light the deep listening space designed by architect Kevin O’Brien.

Blak Box Interior. Photo by Barton Taylor.

BLAK BOX embraces the First Peoples concept of ‘deep listening’ which is based on stories, silences and the spaces that lie between. It is an innovative model that encourages audiences to step inside BLAK BOX and simply listen to sound, ideas and language from a First Peoples perspective.  BLAK BOX utilises cutting-edge surround-sound equipment and production methods enclosed in a space designed to be the perfect space for conversation, in this instance, an inter-generational conversation.

The pavilion — which glows luminously from dusk – straddles sound, creative writing, contemporary architecture and temporary public art.  First presented at Barangaroo in Sydney’s CBD in June 2019, the pavilion recently won Silver in the annual DrivenXDesign NOW Awards. Architect Kevin O’Brien hopes Blak Box can act as a mechanism for daydreaming and convey, “an idea of contemporary Aboriginality”.

UTP’s Artistic Director, Rosie Dennis says: “We’re thrilled to be able to share Blak Box with audiences again with our long-term partner Blacktown Arts. Four Winds invites audiences to reflect on what’s lost when generations are disconnected and re-confirms Urban Theatre Projects commitment to supporting First Nation’s artist and cultural leaders to instigate urgent conversations for the community.”

Take your deep listening experience to another level and come early or stay later to enjoy a series of FREE talks, live music performances and DJ sets. The Sunset Sessions run every night of the Four Winds season so that you can soak up the serenity of the Blacktown Showground Precinct, enjoy a beverage from our donation bar and grab a bite to eat at the adjacent Groundskeeper Cafe before your session inside Blak Box.

Emma Donovan. Performing 16 & 30 January. Photo by Ceasar Rodrigues.

MEDIA CONTACTS: For further information, imagery or interviews, please contact:

Gabrielle Wilson: gabrielle@thepresssociety.com.au – 0433 972 915
Or Lisa  Gluckman lisa@thepresssociety.com.au – 0415 803 990.


SPONSORS: Urban Theatre Projects acknowledges the generous support of our Blak Box Project Sponsors.



Daniel Browning is a widely published arts writer and specialist in contemporary Indigenous art, but who currently works primarily in sound. An experienced presenter, documentary maker and senior Indigenous editor on ABC Radio National, Daniel is from the Bundjalung and Kullilli peoples of far northern New South Wales and south-western Queensland. A trained painter, he is also a visual arts graduate of the Queensland University of Technology and a former guest editor of Artlink Indigenous, a specialist series of the quarterly arts journal. Since 2005, Browning has produced and presented Awaye!, the Indigenous art and culture program on ABC Radio National.

Kevin O’Brien is an architect of Kaurereg and Meriam descent. He is globally renowned for his designs which draw on Aboriginal concepts of space. O’Brien’s Finding Country exhibition was an official Collateral Event of the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale 2012. The designer has also received multiple National and State Awards from the Australian Institute of Architects. O’Brien is widely accepted as one of the country’s leading architects and a pioneer in his field and this ambitious undertaking will be a milestone in his already impressive career.  The BLAK BOX design features similar materials and design principles to previous examples of O’Brien’s award-winning architecture by harnessing natural light and presenting a sleek aesthetic whilst maintaining environmental friendliness and a connection to Country.

Karen Norris has worked extensively as a lighting designer in Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. In Australia she has worked for numerous theatre and dance companies including Bangarra Dance Theatre, Belvoir Street Theatre, Red Shed Theatre Company, State Theatre of South Australia, Griffin Theatre Company and One Extra. In 2008 Karen returned to Australia from living in France and her work has since included designs for the opera Ingkarta Project (Adelaide Festival 2008), Noel Jordon’s In the Shape of a Girl (Sydney Opera House), Love Me Tender (Director Matt Lutton for Company B, PICA and Griffin Theatre Company), Hansel and Gretel (Pacific Opera), and Christine Douglas.

Uncle Wes Marne is a Bigambul man who has lived on the lands of the Darug people in Mt Druitt for over 45 years and is currently Elder-in-Residence with Moogahlin Performing Arts since 2015. Uncle Wes is known throughout the community for his sharing of First Peoples culture and education. Uncle Wes comes from a long line of great storytellers and has followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him. At the age of 96, Uncle Wes continues his work of education, storytelling, advocacy and healing in the community. Uncle Wes in still storytelling in schools, universities, detention centres, community events and at government functions.   In 2014, Uncle Wes received a ZEST Award and was elected to the Hall of Fame for people who have served the community. In 2011 Uncle Wes was the proud recipient of the first Nanga Mai Love of Learning Award recognising innovation, excellence and achievement in Aboriginal education in NSW schools. Uncle Wes is a member of the Mount Druitt and Districts Reconciliation Group who, for the past 18 years. He dedicates his life to children and men who have been incarcerated, getting their lives back on track by helping them regain the confidence and advocate on their own behalf. For over 25 years, Uncle Wes was part of the Aboriginal Advisory Board for the Department of Housing and Family and Community Services, Mt Druitt.

Auntie Edna Watson’s Darug name is Mariong.  She is a Darug woman born at Blacktown in 1939 to a Darug woman and English man.  She started painting about twenty-five years ago.  Many of her paintings are in countries all over the world.  She has designed linen for Hyde Park International and has exhibited throughout NSW.  She gave the Welcome to Country at the Sydney Olympic Games on Darug lands.  She has revised the Darug language in schools and was the second Aboriginal person to receive the Nangai Mai Love of Learning award in NSW Western Sydney region.  She now performs Welcome to Country with her granddaughters.

Shaun Millwood was born in Western Sydney and raised in Bidwill and is currently completing Year 12 at Chifley College Senior Campus.  He met Auntie Edna and Uncle Wes at the Ng-AL-LO-WAH Murrytoola camp in 2016.  His hobbies include photography, filming and recording, listening to music and volunteering for the Rural Fire Service.  When he finishes Year 12 Shaun wants to travel the world, do a Business Degree at university and start his own business.

Savarna Russell is a Gamillaroi woman who was born and raised in Mount Druitt with her seven brothers.  She graduated from Bidwill High School and is studying to be a nurse specializing in pediatrics.  She met Uncle Wes at a cultural camp, but grew up learning about him at school.

Emma Donovan has an influential career spanning over a decade and has been a featured vocalist on over 20 studio albums with Archie Roach, Paul Kelly, The Black Arm Band, David Leha (Radical Son) Shane Howard, Felix Riebl (The Cat Empire), Jessie Lloyd, Briggs, and Tim Rogers (You Am I). Her recent featured recordings include Archie Roach’s 25th Anniversary of Charcoal Lane including a duet with Dan Sultan, on track Munjana; Archie’s follow up Let Love Rule and in a touring vocal ensemble led by Jessie Lloyd for Mission Songs Project.  Emma has recorded 3 studio Albums Origins – The Stiff Gins (2001), Changes (2004) and Dawn Collaboration with The Putbacks (2014)The album Dawn Collaboration, received a National Indigenous Music Award (NIMA’s) in Darwin, The Age Music Award 2015 and Double J Award 2015 in Melbourne.  Recently Emma performed in the 2018 Closing of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast with Musical Director Katie Noonan.

Eric Avery is Ngiyampaa, Yuin and Gumbangirr.  Eric’s practice explores the deep relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous forms and narratives through the combination of dance and music. Eric is a violinist and contemporary dancer drawing inspiration from the relationship between different types of music, singing his ancestors songs with violin, arranging contemporary music and dance. Recently Eric created a solo with Marrugeku Dance Theatre – Dancing With Strangers – which explored the period of first contact asking what would have happened if Aboriginal and White created art together.