The title of the exhibition, Mga gamit ng isang makata, is not translated when you enter Matcho Makata’s show at the Nexus Arts gallery. Makata, a Filipino man who lives on Kaurna land, has a long list of artistic skills sitting behind him, including as a performance poet, artist, dancer, actor, writer, and teacher. The fact that he has chosen not to translate the title tells us he is immediately connecting the audience to the feeling of discomfort and displacement that comes from balancing a person’s roots with the place they call home.

At the entrance of Mga gamit ng isang makata, wooden slats hang like the bamboo curtains that were in a lot of households back in the ’60s and ’70s. Recycled from donated bed slats and wood off-cuts, they give an immediate feeling of crossing a threshold. However, as it is crossed, it becomes obvious that there are letters burned into the wood. It is here that Makata shows his talent as a poet.

Entitled Wonder, this first artwork is difficult to read, both emotionally and physically, but as each word is deciphered, the theme of the exhibition reveals itself. Makata expertly captures the feeling of existing within two worlds, the struggle and fractured sense of not being in the culture that he comes from but also the way he fell in between the cracks of the society in which he was brought up.

Once Wonder is read, turning around brings us face to face with Palm Reading. This discarded door comes from a Filipinx household and is painted with bright red acrylic and adorned with carefully placed letters, while attached thread hangs loosely.

Matcho Makata’s Palm Reading. Photo: Yusuf Ali Hayat.

The short prose from Makata describes an experience where others recognised the anger he held within himself. In his accompanying essay, he states that there was trauma, anger and pain that he was unpacking in this exhibition, and when you move your gaze to the left, Map Part 2 demonstrates this further. Through this bright blue and yellow acrylic piece, which again has letters and thread attached, Makata tells the story of parents who hurt their children from a place of love, with lessons that came from a time and culture both inside and outside of what he knew.

Society shies away from this narrative of trauma juxtaposed with the idea of wanting the best for your children, but Makata brings it forward – not only highlighting it, but treating it with empathy and expressing a genuine desire to understand.

Mga gamit ng isang makata demonstrates the constant push and pull of diaspora and the trauma that sits within it. While the pops of colour are impactful, it is Makata’s poetry that lays carefully on the surface of the clutter and recycled materials that lingers in the mind far beyond the gallery’s exit.

Mga gamit ng isang makata by Matcho Makata is showing at the Nexus Arts Gallery until March 15. The exhibition can also be visited online

Courtney Jaye is a Ngarrindjeri woman and writer who grew up all around Australia and is currently living on Kaurna country. She is a recipient of the Arts South Australia and InReview First Nations Arts Writing mentorship. Courtney is working with Martu author and freelance writer Karen Wyld to write a series of articles for publication in InReview. 

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview.

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