As part of the Igniting Imagination program, Festival Ambassadors have been chosen from various cultural backgrounds to build connections between the Festival and their communities, by using their platforms as spokespeople to help those from our city’s diverse cultures engage with Melbourne Festival.
Festival Ambassadors represent the changing face of diversity in the arts. Melbourne is a wealth of colour, vibrancy and diversity within the arts. This year’s Festival Ambassadors exemplify this variety sparking creativity, connections and igniting imaginations.
AJAK KWAI (South Sudanese)
Ajak Kwai is the rare voice of an African woman in Australia. Ajak has a haunting melodic voice which is distinctly African and to listen to her is to experience this dark continent in all its colours, rhythms and mystery.
DANIEL SEIFU (Ethiopian)
Daniel Seifu is an Ethiopian music-director, pianist, keyboardist and composer. He studied at Addis Ababa University Yared Music School as well as at the Ethiopian National Theatre. In Melbourne, Daniel has been pivotal in many of the Ethiopian bands established in Australia including the sensational JAzmaris, Afrohabesha, Black Jesus and Dereb the Ambassador.
NILUSHA DASSENAIKE (Sri Lankan)
Sri Lankan born vocalist/composer Nilusha Dassenaike has the unique distinction of obtaining a Bachelor of Music in Improvisation and a Bachelor of Fine Art in Printmaking from the Victorian College of the Arts. Nilusha has established a prolific career in the Australian contemporary jazz and popular music scenes and has had the pleasure of recording and working with national and international artists on her original projects and television/studio session work.
SALVATORE ROSSANO (Italian)
The musician, ethnomusicologist and composer Salvatore Rossano is from the region of Apulia, in Italy’s South East. Salvatore holds a degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Bologna, a Master in Spanish and Latin American Music from the University of Valladolid, where he is also currently a PhD candidate.
TAKAKO ENOMOTO (Japanese)
Born in Hokkaido, Japan, Takako Enomoto arrived in Australia over 12 years ago. She worked in music venues and in Aboriginal Communities with Hip Hop pioneer Elf Tranzporter and his crew. Takako is now known as a “Japanese Soul Food” Chef, owner and manager of Horse Bazaar – an iconic and unique Melbourne CBD Japanese tapas restaurant/bar.
WANG ZHENG-TING (Chinese)
Dr Wang Zheng-Ting graduated from Shanghai Music Conservatory, completed a MA at Monash University and a PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Melbourne. He is lecturing on Chinese Instrumental Music Ensemble at the University of Melbourne, is an honorary research fellow at Monash University and the director of the Australian Chinese Music Ensemble.
JAMES HENRY (Indigenous Australian)
James Henry has been working as a photographer in the Aboriginal community of Melbourne for the past four years covering protest marches to conferences to portraits. James has also been very active in the community as a musician performing with artists and groups such as the Black Arm Band, Archie Roach and the Skin choir as well as being a singer/songwriter in his own right.
LAMINE SONKO (Senegalese)
Lamine Sonko was born in Senegal, West Africa into a family of griots known as culture keepers. Griots are the custodians of ancient lineages, functioning as the eyes and ears of the community. Now living in Melbourne, he is part of the West African Diaspora, the position of traditional griot expands to embrace a new cultural position, whereby music becomes a platform for bringing diverse cultures and practices together into space for the communion of multiple knowledges - traditional and contemporary.
ABDULLAHI IBRAHIM (Somali)
Abdul uses social commentary as means to creatively express social issues. His photos have ranked highly in recent art competitions including being 'Highly Commended' in the 2013 Heartlands Refugee Art Prize. Abdul is a talented, young amateur photographer who, through his work, is striving to make a contribution and a difference.
VICTORIA CHIU (Chinese)
Sydney born Victoria Chiu trained at the Victorian College of the Art in Melbourne. She has performed and toured extensively with European companies Cie Nomades, Cie Gilles Jobin, Micha Purucker, Jozsef Trefeli and Jane Turner. In Australia she has worked with Fiona Malone, Bernadette Walong and with Australian Dance Theatre for TV show Superstars of Dance filmed in LA.
ACHILLES YIANGOULLI (Greek)
Achilles Yiangoulli is a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, who currently performs with ensemble Rebetika with whom he played at the 2007 12th FINA World Championships, WOMAdelaide and at the re-unification of the island of Cyprus by invitation of the United Nations.