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November 22, 2023

Interplay puts diversity centre stage

Nexus Arts' year-long Interplay program is preparing First Nations and culturally diverse artists for stage and screen.

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  • Words: Helen Karakulak
  • Pictures: Hills Media House
  • First picture: Kyarna Rose
  • Second picture: Keith Kugo

On December 2, the final performing duo in the Nexus Arts Interplay program will round out the concert series that marks the year’s end of a unique program for culturally diverse and First Nations artists.


Interplay at Nexus Arts: Kultar Ahluwalia & Nicky Tsz Tung Li

Saturday, 2 December
Nexus Arts Venue, Lion Arts Centre
North Terrace, Adelaide 5000


The double-billed evening will feature Interplay artist Kultar Ahluwalia, a Punjabi-Australian hip-hop artist whose music explores the themes of toxic masculinity and cultural identity. Kultar is joined by Nicky Tsz Tung Li, a queer artist originally from Hong Kong who navigates identity and heritage through her music and arts.

Kultar and Nicky are two of six artists to go through the 2023 Interplay program, along with Kyarna Rose and Keith Kugo and Daniel Phan and Sam Lau.

In addition to the live shows, there’s a music video screening of the artists’ work at Mercury Cinema, as part of their Heaps Good short film series which champions South Australian-made flicks.

The music videos screened were made as part of the year-long Interplay program, which is free for the selected artists and includes sessions that cover everything from honing their craft to artist admin.

This includes mentorship with industry professionals, one-on-one career development as well as getting in front of the camera with music photographers and developing an electronic press kit.

The program is curated by Nexus Arts CEO & Artistic Director, Emily Tulloch, Artist development officer Jennifer Trijo and Interplay program coordinator Naomi Keyte ­– a team that are all artists in their own right.

Naomi, a contemporary folk singer and songwriter, says their team’s experiences help the program have a peer-to-peer mentorship approach, as they hone in on the gaps in learning and professional development they have identified from their own experiences.

“Diverse artists who might have moved here, migrated or sought refuge here, they don’t necessarily have that background of connections or that understanding of how the grant system works, for example,” Naomi says.

“So it’s really about resourcing the artists to the best of our ability to make sure that they’re flourishing by the end of the program.”


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To empower the Interplay participants to find their own ways of storytelling, there’s a five-day creative intensive facilitated by leading contemporary music artists.

“After a session with Adam Page, our artist Nicky told me, ‘I think I can be a musician, I just haven’t been shown the way that I can express my art before’ and Adam really helped her to find her voice as an artist,” Naomi says.

“That was really cool because Adam has got this quirky sensibility and the way he embodies his practice which is a little bit offbeat and left of centre, [Nicky] really resonated with that and he made her feel like she had a place.”

Naomi says these experiences for culturally and linguistically diverse and First Nations artists is crucial, and that the program always naturally centers concepts of home, place, belonging and identity due to the backgrounds and experiences of their performers.

Interplay artist, Kultar.
This picture: Paul Charles Bartlett

“Culturally, in the last five years, I’ve noticed a huge shift in awareness around diversity and the importance and beauty of diversity and how it needs to be nurtured and celebrated,’” she says.

“Even in Australia, [Interplay] is a very unique, specialised program and I think it’s kind of like a pilot for what other arts or diverse arts organisations in Australia can be offering.”

The Interplay program feeds into Nexus Arts’ collaboration with WOMADelaide and offers pathways for artists to continue to pursue opportunities through their network.

Interplay alumni include Iranian Santour player Maryam who joined Alexander Flood’s WOMAD set earlier this year, Japanese artist Noriko Tadano, Sufi singer Farhan Shah and First Nations artist Rob Edwards who’s an NSS x WOMAD Academy artist this year.

The Interplay program is open to artists from culturally diverse and First Nations backgrounds who are performance ready – meaning ready and able to perform a full-length set of original music.

Applications for the 2024 Interplay program are now open and close at midnight on December 11.

The final interplay concert featuring Kultar Ahluwalia and Nicky Tsz Tung Li is at Nexus Arts on December 2 at 7:30 pm.

Catch the Interplay film clip screenings and a special performance by Interplay alumni artist Parvyn at Mercury Cinema on December 8 at 7pm.

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