My Name Is Jimi
When invited to see Queensland Theatre’s latest play ‘My Name Is Jimi’ I didn’t know what to expect. Was it a night of storytelling, dancing, comedy, music or culture? Ultimately it was a night of all of these and much more. ‘My Name Is Jimi’ gave all of us privileged to see it a glimpse into a family and their culture. Spanning four generations, The Bani family, from The Torres Strait Island of Mabuiag, gave us a snapshot of their lives; their stories, music, way of life and how they are grappling with being in the modern world yet keeping traditional stories, some thousands of years old, alive and relevant for the next generation. This is a story from the heart and more than anything is a story about family.
Jason Klarwein (Director) made the trek to Thursday Island to speak to Ahdi Dimple Bani (8th Chief of the Wagadam people). Ahdi told him his story. They spoke of time, how it ebbs and flows. Ahdi said that culture, “It’s like the tide. If there is no rock to hold onto when the tide changes, you will be washed away. You will not know your identity. You will not be strong. You will be swept away.”
Dimple passed away during the making of this play, so his son Jimi Bani continued on but he was not alone. There are four generations of his family on stage with him-his grandmother, mother, two brothers and 15 year old son, Dmitri are all there to help him tell this unique story.
This play is different to anything you’ve ever seen but with the charismatic lead – Jimi Bani showing the way it melds traditional story telling, dance and music with family anecdotes, comedy and a blend of new technology. You feel like you are in the Bani’s living room with Jimi joking to each generation in three different languages, busting a move by spontaneously break dancing, explaining totems and myths to a new generation or using film to share traditional stories.
Jimi Bani, now the 9th Chief of the Wagadam people, is the co- creator of this beautiful play. It is the first time this acclaimed actor has performed here in Brisbane. He began his acting career with a regular role on the SBS series ‘R.A.N’ (Remote Area Nurse) before graduating from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. He’s played in many theatrical musicals including ‘Jandamarra’, ‘Romeo and Juliet ‘and ‘The Sapphires’. In television Jimi played the lead role in the ABC television series –‘The Straits’ and lead role in the telefeature – ‘Mabo’.
Jimi’s family are all on stage with him showing the strength and traditions of this remarkable family. Mother Agnes and Grandmother Petharie share traditional stories, language and music, cheeky brothers Conwell and Richard share culture, dancing and a few laughs. All gently guide Jimi’s son
sports loving Dmitri as he connects with the past and the future straddling both worlds with the help of family.
‘My Name Is Jimi’ fittingly premiered in Cairns. Yet, at the opening night here in Brisbane many of the Bani family were watching on in the audience which provided even more emotion. Queensland Theatre continues to surprise with gems such as ‘My Name Is Jimi’. This wonderful, ground breaking play will be showing at the Billie Brown Studio, Queensland Theatre until August 13.