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In early 2007, Composer Gareth Farr and Writer Dave Armstrong were commissioned to write a musical theatre experience for children aged 8 years and up. The piece was planned for presentation at the Capital E National Arts Festival in March 2009, and the brief was to examine New Zealand society -70 years on from the outbreak of WW II. The piece evolved into an exploration of the influence of the world’s diasporas on New Zealand through the eyes of their children. The writer along with the director, Sara Brodie, undertook research by meeting with those who are or had been children recently arrived in New Zealand, listening to their journeys, the issues they encountered and may continue to face. These stories, from World War II Polish orphans through to children interned on the Tampa and held on Nauru, provided the inspiration and much of the content of the eventual Opera, Kia Ora Khalid.
Originally recorded for use in development of the script and music, the interview footage provides a meaningful and powerful insight into the lives of new, young New Zealanders. Capital E’s Creative Technology team collated the footage and developed a digital installation to accompany the performance. They also developed a Wikispaces site where the footage could be viewed and more stories added through the use of VoiceThread. Issues relating to privacy and children’s rights were solved through sensitive liaison with all stakeholders. The Opera has had successful seasons both in Wellington and Auckland, attracting a far wider audience than the original brief. The collection of digital stories, through the physical installation and living, growing wiki, have been very well received and continue to provide sharing opportunities and insight into this enveloping aspect of our national identity.