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PYT has started the creative development process of ‘Little Baghdad’, an immersive multi-arts event in collaboration with the local Iraqi-Australian community in Fairfield.

Where better to start than being guest judges on Mandaeans Got Talent? The Mandaeans are an ethno-religious group who, prior to the 2003 Iraq war, lived almost exclusively in Iraq. Now, approximately 4000 Mandaeans are living in Sydney and this year they have embarked on a talent quest in the style of the television program Australia’s Got Talent. Producers Karen Therese and Nathan Luff were both invited to lend their judiciary expertise. They were expecting a small community hall, with a modest number of acts to score marks for and possibly to comment on at the end of the event. What they got instead was a hall converted into a television studio, with cameras and lights everywhere. A huge number of contestants were competing, each entering the studio in a burst of smoke and applause. After each act, the judges were required to comment to camera and state whether they felt the contestant should get through to the next round. Move over Ginger Spice, Dawn French and Kyle Sandilands, Kaz and Nathan are in the house! What made it difficult was that the PYT judges were the only people involved in the event not speaking Arabic, meaning they had no idea what any of the other judges, or indeed, the contestants, were saying. Thankfully when it came to judging, a good performance transcends language.

The huge productions values (with the whole gig being produced by volunteers) are evidence of the impressive community support the Mandaean community has. The first round was released on Youtube and within hours had over 7000 hits. Next year the producers are thinking bigger, including flying contestants in from all over the country. PYT would be very happy to have many of the talented contestants involved in ‘Little Baghdad’ because it has been confirmed, Mandaeans does have talent.

Check out the second round here

Another important staple of the research phase of ‘Little Baghdad’ is daily visits to the local Iraqi restaurant, Al-Dhiaffah Al Iraq. Karen and Nathan are slowly eating their way through the menu, all in the name of research.

Coming up, PYT will produce a Long Table event curated by the arts collective The Hunting Party, which will invite leading members of the Iraqi community to lunch.