Bernadette Fam is one to watch

Bernadette Fam. Photo by Robert Miniter.

Bernadette Fam. Photo by Robert Miniter.

Emerging artist Bernadette Fam is one of the 2018/19 Young Creative Leaders Fellowship recipients. Bernadette will use the opportunity for professional development while creating a verbatim piece exploring the experiences of Arabic-Australian women in Sydney’s West.

Congratulations on receiving a coveted 2018 Create NSW Young Creative Leaders Fellowship. How did you ensure your application would be successful?

I believe my application stood out because it met two Create NSW priority areas: engaging with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) and people living and/or working in Western Sydney. My work also has a strong focus on women in these areas which would have helped.

It also spoke to an essential voice that is not often heard in our industry. I hope to engage women from many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. I hope that my final piece will be relatable to all those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds because it will explore universal issues such as sexuality, family dynamics and social stigmas.

I made it clear in my application that one of my main goals for the fellowship is to develop a deeper connection to my community of Western Sydney.

Undertaking two secondments and an internship are features of your fellowship’s creative development program. What do you hope to gain from these experiences?

So much! Working with Playwriting Australia will expand my knowledge and skills in script development.
From the National Theatre of Parramatta, I would love to soak in how a professional rehearsal room runs. I believe that seeing the National Theatre of Parramatta transfer a work from page to stage will challenge my own perceptions on effective direction and collaboration.

Finally, interning with the Long Table Project with The Joan will allow me to witness a work that connects directly with its wider community.

You’re planning an interdisciplinary verbatim piece, Middle Where, exploring Arabic-Australian women’s experiences living in Western Sydney. How will you go about creating the work and what does it mean to you?

Middle Where will begin with multiple research periods throughout 2019 where I will be interviewing Arabic-Australian women from all heritages, generations, sexualities, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. After compiling this research, I will spend a week at the Q Theatre workshopping an interdisciplinary verbatim piece with three other creatives which will culminate in a public showing at the end of the week. Then I will take what I’ve learnt from the week and continue to develop the work for the rest of the year.

Although there is such a significant presence of an Arabic-Australian community in Western Sydney, I grew up feeling disconnected from my culture. After reflecting on this, years on, I’ve been able to see the extreme implication of the situation. Why is my culture something that makes me “outsider” and something that I must “compete” with when it is who I am? Thus, the key lesson that I wish to share from completing my program is focused on three words: understanding, connection and celebration. I hope that this project will address the misrepresentation of Arabic-Australians in art and hopefully contribute to the normalisation and humanisation of our culture in a contemporary Australian society.

Where do you see yourself in five years and how will this fellowship help you get there?

I don’t have a set plan for the next five years. If I’ve learnt anything in the past year, it’s that the road of creativity is forever twisting and turning. If you try to straighten it, you’ll end up missing opportunities which are nuggets of gold! Ultimately, I want to make my own work. I want to bring communities together through art. I want to advocate for change through my art.

What advice have you for anyone thinking about applying for a fellowship?

You have more support than you think! Contact that actor you have always wanted to work with! Email that company you’ve dreamed of working with! If you take the plunge and chase the opportunity, you have already opened a door for a potential “yes”. If you shy away from it, you are locking the “yes” door and throwing away the key. Your ideas are worth it. Be proud of your work and make your application reflect that.


See the full list of the 2018/19 Young Creative Leaders Fellowship recipients.

Published: 13 December 2018