Lior & Nigel Westlake:
Ngapa William Cooper
Singer-songwriter Lior and composer Nigel Westlake join forces with Lou Bennett to create a tribute to the life and actions of Aboriginal activist William Cooper. An extension of Lior and Westlake’s first creation together, the song cycle Compassion, this work reflects a real-life story embodying the very virtue Compassion examined.
William Cooper was an Aboriginal activist who played a pivotal role in establishing equal rights for Aboriginal Australians. Among his many achievements, he helped form the Australian Aborigines League, the first entirely indigenous advocacy body in the country, as well as being the founder of what we know today as NAIDOC week.
This new work tells of a truly remarkable act of compassion, and one which Lior and Nigel believe has a transcendent universal message and power to inspire. Following the events of ‘Kristallnacht’ – the violent pogrom that, in 1938, marked the escalation of anti-Jewish violence in Nazi Germany – William Cooper was horrified that protest by national governments was so limited, so on 6 December 1938 led a delegation of the Australian Aborigines League in a 10-kilometre walk across Melbourne to deliver a formal petition to the German Consulate condemning the ‘cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany’.
They were denied entry and the German consul refused to receive their protest, but the message and compassion this act carried was no less powerful.
Premiere: UKARIA Cultural Centre, March 2023. Commissioned by UKARIA and Finding Our Voice.
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In the not-too-distant-future, Finding Our Voice will be able to be experienced digitally, and we will create and share experiences, skills and resources online with diverse audiences and communities. Performance footage, interviews, commentary, insights into creative processes will sit alongside educational resources and activities stimulating participation — deepening musical engagement and equipping people to express their own creativity.