'Monkey Baa Theatre Company brings the children’s version of Li Cunxin’s iconic autobiography, Mao’s Last Dancer to the stage in this extraordinary production.
'Li, a 10-year old peasant boy is plucked from his village in rural China and sent to a ballet academy in the big city. He leaves everything and everyone he loves, including his family. Over years of gruelling training, this boy transforms from an impoverished peasant to a giant of the international dance scene. Li’s courage, resilience and unwavering hope for a better life makes The Peasant Prince a story to ignite our own aspirations to be the best person we can be. Audiences will be captivated by this very personal story, truly a 20th century fairy tale.' (Production summary)
Unit Suitable For:
AC: Years 3 and 4 (NSW Stage 2)
Critical and creative thinking, Intercultural understanding, Literacy, Personal and social
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia
'This chapter explores how Australian writers and illustrators in the twenty-first century depict the act of mothering in picture books for young children in relation to cooking and serving food. It draws on the idea that children’s texts can be understood as sites of cultural production and reproduction, with social conventions and ideologies embedded in their narrative representations. The analysis is based on a survey of 124 books that were shortlisted for, or won, Children’s Book Council of Australia awards between 2001 and 2013. Of the eighty-seven titles that contain food and have human or anthropomorphised characters, twenty-six (30 percent) contain textual or illustrative references to maternal figures involved in food preparation or provision. Examination of this data set reveals that there is a strong correlation between non-Anglo-Australian maternal figures and home-cooked meals, and a clear link between Anglo-Australian mothers and sugar-rich snacks. The relative paucity of depictions of ethnically unmarked mothers offering more nutritious foods is notable given the cultural expectations of mothers as caretakers of their children’s well-being. At the same time, the linking of non-Anglo-Australian mothers with home-cooked meals can be seen as a means of signifying a cultural authenticity, a closeness to the earth that is differentiated from the normalised Australian culture represented in picture books. This suggests an unintended alignment of mothers preparing and serving meals with “otherness,” which creates a distancing effect between meals that may generally be considered nutritious and the normalised self. I contend there are unexamined, and perhaps unexpected, cultural assumptions about ethnicity, motherhood, and food embedded in contemporary Australian picture books. These have the potential to inscribe a system of beliefs about gender, cultural identity, and food that contributes to readers’ understanding of the world and themselves.'
'From Exodus to the American Dream, from Terra Nullius to the Yellow Peril to multicultural harmony, migration has provided a rich source of myth throughout human history. It engenders dreams, fears and memories in both migrant and resident populations; giving rise to hope for a new start and a bright future, feelings of exile and alienation, nostalgia for lost homelands, dreams of belonging and entitlement, fears of invasion, dispossession and cultural extinction. It has inspired artists and writers from the time of the Ancient Testament to the contemporary age of globalisation and mass migration and it has exercised the minds of politicians from Greek and Roman times to our era of detention centres and temporary visas.
This reading of Asian-Australian picture books will focus on immigrants' perception of the "new worlds" of America and Australia. The Peasant Prince, a picture-book version of Li Cunxin's best-selling autobiography Mao's Last Dancer, sets up tensions between individual ambition and belonging, illustrated by contrasts between the Chinese story "The Frog in the Well" and the Western fairy-tale of Cinderella, to which Li Cunxin's own trajectory from poor peasant boy in a Chinese village to international ballet star is explicitly related. Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing and The Arrival trace the journey from alienation to belonging by means of fantasy worlds encompassing both utopic and dystopic visions. By way of a conclusion, the paper considers the nature of myth as evoked and dramatised in these texts, contrasting the idea of myth as eternal truth with Roland Barthes' insistence that myth is a mechanism which transforms history into nature.' Source: Wenche Ommundsen.
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