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Tiriki Onus Has A Chat About New Film "Ablaze"

Yorta Yorta bass baritone Tiriki Onus grew up in Melbourne and spent ten years as a successful visual artist, art conservator and exhibition curator before he began singing professionally. His first operatic role was creating Bill in the Mooroopna premiere of Deborah Cheetham's Pecan Summer in October 2010, which he reprised in 2011, and 2012 for the Melbourne and Perth runs. He received the Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust's Harold Blair Opera Scholarship in 2012 and 2013.

The true story of the first Aboriginal filmmaker William Bill Onus. Tiriki Onus sets out to uncover the mystery surrounding a 70-year-old silent movie believed to be made by his grandfather, WilliamʻBillʼ Onus. Bill Onus, a Yorta Yorta/Wiradjuri man from Victoria, is a truly heroic cultural and political figure who revived his peopleʼs culture in the 1940s and ignited a citizenʼs rights movement in that would, against enormous odds, change the course of history. His enormous talents as entertainer, entrepreneur, theatre impresario, the first Aboriginal filmmaker and television host were all used in service of winning racial equality and justice.

It is little known that Bill generated international support for the Aboriginal rights movement. Music stars like Harry Belafonte, who worked closely with Martin Luther King, visited him. Paul Robeson earned an ASIO file after he spoke out for equality in Australia. As Tiriki journeys across the continent and pieces together clues to the filmʼs origins, he unearths dark intrigues that shape the story into a real-life thriller about a murky campaign to stop Billʼs rising international influence. Through never-seen-before archival footage, reimagined events, animation and eyewitness accounts, Ablaze tells a compelling story – part detective story, part contemporary opera – of passionate belief and cultural resilience that resonates across generations.

Source: Ablaze (Film) - Creative Spirits, retrieved from

In the past several years he has performed at various venues around Australia, including the Shepparton Arts Museum, the Heath Ledger Theatre in Perth, Her Majesty's Theatre in Adelaide, the Cape Otway Lightstation, Government House Victoria and the Etihad Stadium, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Recital Centre, BMW Edge and Arts Centre in Melbourne. He also performed a series of engagements during his participation in Kwaya's cross cultural connections journey to Uganda in 2012.

Tiriki holds the position of Lecturer in Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Practices at the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts at the VCA (2014), educating others in the field of indigenous identity, arts, culture and history.

Tiriki's also had the role of Richard Frankland in Walking Into the Bigness, Malthouse Theatre, 2nd - 23rd August 2014. Operatic performances for 2014 include several performances for the Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival in February, being Deborah Cheetham's Til the Black Lady Sings at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Blak Cabaret and his self-produced one-man-show William and Mary at the Malthouse. He also performed the role of Pa Moss in Melbourne Lyric Opera's The Tenderlands at Chapel Off Chapel in May 2014, and the revised role of James in the Adelaide run of Pecan Summer in July 2014.


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