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In Praise of Shadows

In his famous essay on aesthetics, In Praise of Shadows, Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki questions the traditional Western ideal of preferring the beauty of light over darkness, stating that the former can’t exist without the latter: “The quality that we call beauty, however, must always grow from the realities of life, and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows toward beauty’s ends.” These words seem highly appropriate to the heart and soul of Marama, a piece that dwells amongst the shadows, evoking a home that is the rooted in tradition but is threatened by the advent of modern civilisation.

At its most basic, Marama is an attempt to represent the destruction of our natural landscapes through deforestation. While it does this, the power of the piece goes beyond that. Led by artistic director Nina Nawalowalo, what the theatremakers of The Conch accomplish is creating a whole world before our eyes. Paying homage to its Pacific heritage without tokenising it.

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