Time Out is profiling the incredible people who are shaping the future of Sydney in this Future Shaper series. These remarkable individuals and organisations were nominated by a panel of expert judges including editor of Time Out Sydney Maxim Boon, celebrity chef and restaurateur Kylie Kwong, head of talks and ideas at the Sydney Opera House Edwina Throsby, NSW 24-hour economy commissioner Michael Rodrigues, CEO of IndigiLab Luke Briscoe, and NIDA resident director David Berthold. Read more about the project here.
Moreblessing Maturure is an interdisciplinary artist, publisher and advocate whose works defies boundaries of genre and identity. She is the founding editor of Folk Magazine, an independent arts and culture magazine dedicated to championing and celebrating Artists of Colour in Australia, and in her work both on stage and on the page, she is challenging the status quo of Australia's creative arenas to raise up IBPOC artists across a broad spectrum of disciplines.
Leading by example, in 2021, she played a starring role in the brilliant zeitgeist-shredding two-hander Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner for Darlinghurst Theatre Company, which had a cast and crew made up entirely of women, including 95 per cent women of colour and 65 per cent Black women.
Follow Moreblessing here: @moreblessingma
What was it like being a Black woman starting out in Australian theatre?
With hindsight, I would describe it as, like, being sold short. Yeah, being ripped off.
You're offered a spectrum of a career, you're presented with a slate of potential work and valid options of the types of roles you can do and the types of spaces you can be in. You’re being shown around by a used car salesman: what's presented to you is probably, well, less than what you should get and definitely less than what you're worth and what everyone else gets. And you're somewhat expected to be grateful for it. So it's a process of realising that and then demanding more.
Is there an experience you’ve had recently, or something you’ve worked on, that makes you feel that for someone else starting out now, things could be different?
Definitely, I think it is in those spaces that are being created, that are consciously being built and established. I think they are providing more accessible alternatives to what's initially presented. And even thinking about Seven Methods, everyone engaged with the project wanted to be there, because this show mattered to them. For whatever reason, there was personal buy-in, beyond the assets or the job. There was such care for the work being done on the stage or in the rehearsal room, for ourselves. And for some of us, it might be the only time or it might be years until the next time. But at least Seven Methods showed us that something like that – something that inclusive – is possible. If you have the resources for it.
Since BLM reaching a level of mainstream acceptance in 2020, we’ve seen the theatre industry make a push to be more racially inclusive – or they say they are making one. Do you feel like things have changed much?
Yeah, I guess like in that they weren't saying it before? Yeah. We have a ways to go, that’s for sure. But I saw recently, for instance, that the Victorian Opera made a statement in response to feedback on a cast they announced, which, you know, on one hand, it’s good that they have the wherewithal and the understanding to be able to engage with criticism and respond in some sort of way. But also, this is not our job, it's not my job. I don’t want to be looking at all the cast announcements, and then be in the comments. Like, fix it before we get there.
You’re not just an actor and writer for stage – you’re the founder of Folk Magazine, a public speaker and you’re opening an arts exhibition in July. Do you put certain projects on the back burner while you focus on one, or are they always working in tandem, with you dipping out of one into another?
I think it's the latter. There’s an asterisk with Folk, because it requires a lot of resources, so it’s funding-dependent. If I don't have the money to pay people, I pause it for a little bit. But starting the magazine has given me an interdisciplinary approach to my work – it was a publication that tried to work with people who knew what was happening in different industries, and that’s been really useful across my work. With Milk and Honey and Lemons opening in July, it’s great having a work that is interdisciplinary within the same project: it’s a spatial and audio installation, as well as a one-person show. There’s a dexterity with different skills that keeps it exciting.
My reference points are diverse as a result of working across different mediums. Like I'll have [Kendrick Lamar’s album] ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ as a mood board reference, as well as an artwork that I saw at the MCA, as well as some poem that I read by Ellen van Neerven. I think it ties in with the way my brain works. And I don't think I could ever see myself either doing just performing or just writing.
What does the future of Sydney’s arts industry look like to you?
I've always wanted to reach a point where just a lot of the like, well-meaning people that already benefit from a lot of privilege, just... leap out of the way. There's a lot of well-intentioned, good-hearted, ‘doing the work’ kind of people. But ‘the work’... ‘the work can also look not like building a reading list. The work for some people is to retire, and that might be what you need to do. If you are one of those people – with power and privilege – who wants to help, you need to understand that your role within that institution should be to get the money and give it to others. You're just a conduit into the spaces that they can't access. You're a funnel. If you're doing more than that, you’re doing too much.