My Name Is Jimi

My Name Is Jimmy is a theatrical autobiography. It is a rare and invaluable treat indeed to be invited into the foreign universe of a person from a starkly different upbringing. But there is a greater sense of importance about the Torres Strait Island universe  as we enter into My Name Is Jimi…

 

 

On the stage Jimi Bani recounts his memories, and shares his visions of the future from the unique perspective of a rightly proud Torres Strait Islander man, sandwiched in between two barely reconcilable generations of Torres Strait Islanders. Bani has recruited his own family members to embody these three generations. Jimi’s elderly mother whose mere seated presence at the side of stage contributed incalculable gravitas to the storytelling, and Bani’s adolescent son, clad in Melbourne Storm merchandise. The participation of these family members evoked an endearing and informal charm to the storytelling, through the occasionally sloppy timing and enunciation of Bani’s co-stars. This could not impede upon the enjoyment of Bani’s narrative, with the family’s involvement contributing both authenticity and intimacy to the performance.

 

My Name Is Jimi is not all proverbial sunshine and rainbows, Bani addresses the detriment that technology and Americanisation are beginning to inflict upon the retention of Torres Strait Islander culture. Initially Bani playfully describes how footy shorts are a non-negotiable part of the new traditional Torres Strait Islander attire, however the audience soon understand this evolution as an ominous consequence of a rich and vibrant culture under threat. Bani proclaims that technology must be used to document and sustain Torres Strait Islander traditions, rather than replace and mute. To inadequately paraphrase Bani, without one’s native tongue or a connection with one’s culture, one is adrift in a rudderless boat. Much creole is spoken and translated on stage and traditions are explained in a manner that is both educational and entertaining -no small feat considering that when there is an intention to be both informative and entertaining the result is often neither, which we are reminded of each weeknight at 6:30pm on Channel 10.

 

Several times the audience are illuminated and quizzed on various parts of Torres Strait Islander culture, such as traditional headdress, language and Bani’s family members. The breaking, incinerating and vacuuming of the granulated remains of the 4th wall effectively created an appropriately non-passive atmosphere for Bani’s storytelling. This show essentially is a storytelling session, but it is much more poignant, and creatively divulged, than the average punter at the local pub reckoning he once stood next to Tony Lockett at a urinal. Captured on stage by Bani's brothers using handheld cameras, a live video of model set designs backgrounds the vivid storytelling against the back wall. Bani recounts childhood parables from the Torres Strait Islands, with a charisma that at times teeters on the precipice of overacting. However, this energy is highly infectious, and the audience eagerly follows Bani’s anecdotes, and leaves uplifted and knowledgeable.

 

Bani and his family ostensibly glow with joy at the sharing of their culture and history with an entire room of interested people, thus sustaining their culture and writing more Torres Strait Islander history. Change can be embraced to empower Torres Strait Islander culture, and My Name Is Jimi epitomises this.

 

 

By Harry Rival Lee