First Nations


Posted on: Wed 14 Feb 2024

Honouring Legacies: Aunty Betty Sumner’s Tribute to Eva Johnson.

Aunty Betty Sumner, a performer and celebrated artist with deep ancestral ties to the Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna, and Peramangk People, captivated the audience at the Peramangk Watta Survival Day 2024 event, her presence marked a time of deep significance and reflection as she sang songs and recited spoken word from a play called ‘Tjinderella’ and ‘Mimini Voices’ infused in First Nation history.

During our interview, Aunty Betty expressed her heartfelt desire to pay homage to her esteemed friend, Eva Johnson from Daly River NT. Eva, a luminary figure in the Aboriginal arts scene with an enduring legacy as a poet, actor, director, playwright, and teacher.

Eva championed Indigenous narratives and paved the way for future generations of ‘Black Theatre’ artists. In 1984, Eva Johnson made history by directing the inaugural Aboriginal Women’s Arts Festival in Adelaide, a groundbreaking platform that displayed the creativity and talent of First Nation Women.

Notably, Eva’s play “Tjinderella” challenged the conventional narratives by exploring the dreams and struggles, offering a poignant reflection on oppression and resilience of a Black Girl with dreams but had it taken away in Australia compared to the fairy-tale of Cinderella, who’s dreams all come true.

Back then, Aunty Betty had input in the props design production and then Eva offered her an acting role in Tjinderella, as “Super Gin” embodying the strength and spirit of Indigenous women caped in a Nunga Flag on roller-skates.

A highlight of Aunty Betty’s career was acting in the 1989 production of “Mimini Voices” by Eva Johnson and Magpie Theatres. This play garnered international acclaim at the Hiroshima Arts Festival in Japan. This powerful production addressed themes of identity and heritage and earned recognition with the Festival Peace Prize.

Listen to Aunty Betty’s interview with Radio Adelaide’s Celestine Rowe and Vida Sumner followed by her performance at the Peramangk Watta Survival Day at Laratinga Pavilion in Mount Barker SA.

Image description Aunty Betty Sumner

Image supplied by Vida Sumner

Vida Sumner

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