Thanks, mum

AN innovative one-woman show blends storytelling, poetry and science in a moving ode to migrant mothers in Perth.

MoR is performed by Dureshawar Khan, who was an impressionable 15-year-old when her family emigrated from Pakistan to Perth in 2003.

She’s now lived in Australia longer than her country of birth, and has not seen her relatives in Peshawar in some 17 years.

In her unique show, Khan explores the complex relationship she had with her mother as they both adapted to a strange new life in WA.

“Writing this show has been challenging. Despite being fluent in three languages, I still fail to find words to describe how grateful I am for the role my mother has played in my life and the lessons she has passed on to me,” Khan says.

“I am sure many migrant children feel this way about their parents. And sometimes that debt of gratitude can feel crippling. 

“I see it as an opportunity to explore the unique challenges faced by migrant and first generation children. 

“But at its core, MoR is a love letter written by the migrant child to any person whom they have ever called mum.”

Khan’s mother was a high school science teacher in Pakistan, but her qualifications weren’t transferrable to Australia so she had to retrain as a teacher in Perth (In a quirky nod to her mum’s love of science, Khan does some experiments in MoR).

This led to the unusual situation of mother and daughter studying at Edith Cowan University at the same time.

“It was such a surreal yet memorable time for me,” Khan says. “We would often catch up on campus and have a coffee before classes. 

“However, my favourite memory was the time I bumped into her at the ECU Library with her classmates. Most of them were my age when she introduced me as her daughter, they were all so excited to tell me how cool my mum was and how she was so good at explaining tricky concepts to them.”

Khan is part of Third Culture Kids, a group of multicultural and multilingual performers in Perth who have roots stretching across the globe.

The collective use theatre to bridge cultural divides and tell stories that might otherwise be ignored, forgotten or silenced. 

MoR director Susie Conte, who founded feminist theatre company Tempest Theatre, describes Khan’s writing as “phenomenal, poetic and urgent”.

“Mothers are often the ones that weave culture, family history and folklore into day-to-day affairs, keeping us tethered to our identities and ancestry,” Conte says. 

“I wanted to make a show about being the daughter of an immigrant mother because I wanted to acknowledge the delicate balancing act that most ‘third culture’ children participate in. 

“It’s not always beautiful, poetic moments of cultural sharing over a cup of chai; there are also darker, more confusing moments where we find ourselves torn between loyalty to our mothers and self preservation; moments where we have to choose between our parent culture and our new Australian identity.” 

MoR is at The Blue Room Theatre in Northbridge from May 18 – June 5. Tix at blueroom.org.au

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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