MY NAME IS JIMI
Mabuiag Island is a remote speck in the sparkling blue of the Torres Strait. The island boasts thousands of years of rich history and culture, with just a few hundred people keeping it alive. It’s also the home of Jimi Bani, and the charismatic actor pays tribute to his family and culture in a joyous, exuberant and truly memorable live theatre experience.
My Name is Jimi unfolds through music, dance, stand-up and fireside storytelling. Four generations of Jimi’s family take to the stage as his grandmother Petharie, mother Agnes, son Dmitri and brothers Conwell and Richard help him spin yarns of totems, traditions and childhood memories.
The production combines traditional storytelling and technology to create a multi-generational show that’s wholly original.
“I cannot really recall a play like My Name is Jimi,” says co-creator and director Jason Klarwein. “Sure there are works it can be related to, but what audiences will see, experience, feel and celebrate on stage is only a sliver of what is happening culturally within this family. It is truly a unique theatrical experience.”
Klarwein was consistently struck by the ability of the Bani family to bridge generational and cultural timelines.
“Sometimes when rehearsal paused, out of the corner of my eye I would see 15-year-old Dmitri Bani put his iPhone down and learn dance or language from his uncles, his grandmother or great-grandmother … I watched this boy, who will soon be a man, grapple with Instagram and cultural lore at the same time. Like the two things were made to be together.”
At its core, My Name is Jimi is a story of family and community, and preserving and protecting culture, tradition and language in a rapidly changing world.
Belvoir’s Artistic Director Eamon Flack says: “It’s a humble show about a very big story – the passing of culture from one generation to the next. At its heart is the idea that no one person can learn in their lifetime as much as they can inherit from their culture. It asks us to consider the resilience of small communities in an age of big forces and homogeneity.”
Jimi Bani is perhaps best known as Eddie Mabo in the ABC’s Mabo, and for his performances in Belvoir’s productions of Peter Pan and Title and Deed, and the 2010-11 national and international tour of The Sapphires.
“I’m very serious about my craft,” says Bani. “I love storytelling. Working with professional actors helps to grow my range as a performer, but when you have your family on stage, you become real.
“This show is designed so that we as a family come on stage and just tell this message. This is who we are. This is where we come from. This is where we are now today. And this is where we want to go.”