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In Between Two

When Joel ma was a kid, the matriarch of his family was his Chinese-Australian grandmother Edith.

 A born-again Christian, she would hold him close before their ritual family yumcha and say a 10-minute prayer in Cantonese.

“She also liked to sing, so at yum cha sometimes she’d stand up and put one hand on the Lazy Susan table and then in a wavering vibrato, sing old songs from the 40s and 50s,” recalls Ma.

When she died, Ma and his sister discovered that this PG-version of their grandmother was rather different to the glamour and high- stakes of her earlier life.

In the show In Between Two Ma (Joelistics, TZU) and Darwin’s own James Mangohig (Sietta) use song, storytelling, home video recordings and photos to explore their richly varied experiences and the wealth of stories that came before them.

“It’s a theatre storytelling show with a lot of music in it, about James and I, our friendship, growing up in the 90s mixed race, being obsessed by hip-hop and slowly that interest becoming our political awakening,” says Ma.

This political awakening led Ma to form TZU, the funny, original, political hip-hop crew who achieved great success in the 2000s.

Ma’s grandmother ran Sydney’s Chequers nightclub, one of the city’s earliest licenced free venues, and hosted the likes of Sammy Davis Jnr and Sarah Vaughan.

“She really was a ground breaking and amazing woman, in terms of her business acumen and her strength. But also in terms of her personal life – she lived with her lover and her husband in one house.”

Mangohig met Ma under a tree at a music festival in Alice Springs and went from being a fan of TZU, to a lifelong friend.

Raised in the church, Mangohig’s Filipino father was a preacher, who corresponded with his mother for six years, even becoming engaged to her, before ever meeting face-to-face.

His own story follows his musical rebellion “and then owning my own identity as growing up mixed-raced Asian in Australia.” 

See the event listing.

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