TW Talks Tuesday: An Interview With Sheree Stewart

Emerging queer Aboriginal artist Sheree Stewart is ready to unleash the world premiere or her one woman show this Melbourne Fringe Festival. Pilepileta (Wemba Wemba language meaning ‘to shine, glitter”) is Stewart’s unapologetic and raw account of being a queer Aboriginal woman in a small redneck town.

SS: Pilepileta is a hard story as it touches on topics such as domestic violence, racism, homophobia and bullying but it also is a beautiful story of triumph and the resilience of the human spirit. It’s a big story and it’s taken a lot of courage to write it, but I feel like it is a story worth sharing because I want to shed light on how beautiful and powerful we can become, even when we have all the odds stacked against us.

Stewart has been working on this story for a long time, even before she knew she would be creating a show from it.

SS: The show has been brewing and just kind of sitting in my bones for a long time now and it finally just erupted out of me. I always write, I am always carrying a notebook so I have been putting ideas on paper over the months and am collaborating all of those ideas to create this show. I wrote Pilepileta because my Nan (a gorgeous little Aboriginal woman who is sadly no longer with us) always used to say to me “Sheree, you tell the story, you know the story, you have the storytelling from us. Tell the story”. As most mob know, your Nan is the best. She is like the Queen and everything revolves about her. So this is to honour my Nan and my Mum with my promise of breaking our family’s cycle of silence and violence.

PIlepileta weaves together a tapestry of spoken word ,dance, movement and videography, and while Stewart knew the show would always have spoken word, the rest has been a series of welcomed exploration.

SS: I have been making it all up as I go along and seeing what works. I knew spoken word was a part of it, because that is what I do, but the other things have just organically fit in along the process. The most exciting part for me is that I was able to include the old footage of when we were little and the Country I was on in the production. I am excited to get to share what my Country looks like to everyone because it is a small, hot and dusty place that not many people know.

Stewart hopes that despite the difficult issues being raised, audiences will still see the hopefulness and beauty of the piece.

SS: This is powerful, raw storytelling that comes from a voice of an Aboriginal woman who has overcome so many difficulties and was put in almost impossible circumstances. It is painful but uplifting and I am hoping that people walk away from Pilepileta feeling inspired to share their own stories. I feel like this story has been a long time coming. I truly believe that storytelling and sharing stories connects us, creates understanding and can actually change the world.


Read more about Pilepileta here.

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