Thomas E.S. Kelly Co-Artistic Director Karul Projects

Karul Projects will bring their bold and uncompromising production SILENCE to the RPAC stage on Friday 14 October. Ahead of this performance, we took the opportunity to talk to Co-Artistic Director Thomas E.S. Kelly about his motivation to create this work and his journey within the Arts industry.

This show is just brimming with energy, ideas, humour and heart – what drew you to create the work?
I spent four years creating this work because I wanted to add to the political conversation in Australia, to add Karul’s voice to an ongoing call for Treaty. Conversations that have been had for 20, 30, 40 years. So, SILENCE is still just as relevant today as it was when the first ships arrived 252 years ago. We still don't have an agreement with the government and we're still the only Commonwealth country that has never had one.

Karul Projects has been around since 2017, how did the company start?
I started Karul because as a First Nations artist, I didn't see many companies telling the stories of my people, there weren't enough Blak companies telling Blak stories. When Taree and I left NAISDA, we performed with many different companies but there wasn't an opportunity with other Blak dance artists so we made our own. As well as bringing up other young ones to not only perform, but also make their own work or their own companies.

You’ve worked on some incredible projects since graduating from NAISDA Dance College in 2012 – can you tell us about [MIS]CONCIEVE, for which you won a Green Room Award in 2016?
This is the work that kicked it all off for us. Where I got the thirst for choreography, making work and storytelling on stage. As much as the work is about public misconceptions, it is also a personal story. As an artist, it’s exciting to make work and it be presented. This is the trajectory that propelled me to start making more work.


You draw on so many art forms aside from straight dance – film, music, theatre – and so much great work has been made in the last few years. Who and what are some of the key creatives and works that standout for you recently?
Vicki Van Hout is someone who always continues to inspire me, through both conversation and performance. Vicki and Taree Sansbury are both responsible for leading me to where I am today.

From afar, being in the industry, I admire Stephanie Lake, The Farm and Dancenorth’s work, along with the plethora of First Nations creatives including Dan Riley, Dalisa Pigram, Francis Rings, Jacob Boehme, Joel Bray, Gina Rings and many more. Recently, there has been a  massive shift  with funding and a  shift in leadership amongst us. The young groups and independents starting to come up is also incredibly inspiring.