In only a few short weeks Midsumma Festival will kick off its 2021 season, with a plethora of events taking over Melbourne from the 19th of April to the 5th of May. However, one show in particular has upset a number of individuals within our local LGBTQI communities and has left the performer at the centre of the show, Fabio Cattafi, to deal with accusations of racism and most alarmingly blackface.
The show itself A Night With Tina was set to open at infamous Chapel St establishment Chasers Night Club, which is owned by the same company behind Inflation Nightclub, a venue which has been known to court its own controversy in recent times. The show stands cancelled for now, with Cattafi promising to return at a later date.
Yet the fact remains, we are talking about a performer of European descent, playing the role of a women whose father was an African American Baptist deacon and whose mother was a farmer of part-Cherokee and Navajo descent.
Despite numerous attempts to set up an interview with Cattafi in recent days Star Observer was unable to speak with the performer firsthand to try and understand their position on the matter, leaving us only able to refer back to a statement Cattafi released through his own social media channels, in which he claims “I’m a performer paying tribute to a woman I adore, admire and love. My show is fun and an uplifting celebration for us all, but some people have turned it into a political or race issue which couldn’t be any further from my artistic intention & passion.
“My show is not designed to offend anyone, if anything it’s designed to celebrate an icon and her culture as well as uplift and celebrate life.”
Irrespective of his intentions, however noble, in 2021, it is simply not good enough, to hide behind such excuses, particularly when issues of representation are dominating conversations within and outside of the creative industries.
“We did do this, after a number of discussions with [Cattafi] and after we received significant complaints from a number of people in our community who were feeling great offence towards marketing material of the show which was considered to be black or brownface.
“We have a policy in place that requires that Midsumma has no events, promotion, or marketing that could be seen as either discriminatory towards others or likely to cause harm or offence to parts of our community in relation to current contemporary expectations. Unfortunately, we did try and find a way to resolve this with the producer, but it was unable to be resolved.
“The performer believed the material was not offensive and didn’t mind that other people did take offence. We couldn’t move forward with a show where a portion of our community felt discriminated or offended by that content.”
“We work across diverse communities, we recognise there is always a diversity of opinions that exists within that, but Midsumma has to be a place where everybody needs to feel safe and supported,” added Bryant.
Midsumma has now removed the event listing from its festival website and program, with Cattafi vowing to present the work at a later date. Whether or not he wakes up to the offence he has caused, remains to be seen.
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