Lions and Dragons and Lanterns oh my!

Swaying, slithering, jumping, bouncing.

A brilliant yellow dragon with a fiery fluorescent belly and menacing eyes turns the corner. Silver flecks along its side catch the sun. The waiting crowds applaud and raise their camera phones to capture the action.

Dragon dance outside the museum, presented by Dong Tam Association

Dragon dance outside the museum, presented by Dong Tam Association

a dragon dance troupe outside the museum

Dragon dance outside the museum, presented by Dong Tam Association

The first day of Spring school holiday programs started with a bang, or a thumping drum and clanging cymbals to be precise, as the first of our free outdoor performances took to the stage- a spectacular of dragon dance, lion dance and extreme martial arts presented by the Dong Tam Association.

This holidays we have been inspired by our beautiful dragnet fishing boat Tu Do ( Freedom) that carried refugees to safer shores in 1971 . When it pulled into Darwin carrying 31 passengers including Than Tan Lu and his young family, whose stories are a part of our permanent exhibition Passengers, Tu Do was just one of many passenger boats from Vietnam carrying people eager to find safe-haven in Australia. Today though, it is one of only three surviving vessels from this period in Australia’s history, and the only one that is still seaworthy and displayed on the water. Tu Do has recently been beautifully restored by a team of curators, conservators and fleet staff at the museum.

It just happens to be just the perfect time of year for celebrating Vietnamese culture as our program’s timing co-incides with the Mooncake or Mid-Autumn festival- a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated in China and Vietnam.  In line with this our family activities space Kids on Deck is themed – Dragon Dreams and Dragnets. Stepping inside Kids on Deck the sound of giggles and squeals fills the room as children try on fancy dress costumes and play with the dragon shadow puppets they have created in the puppet theatre. Others clutch at paint dabbers making delicate painted lotus flowers, or furiously colour bright paper sheets to cut into beautiful lanterns- a traditional activity associated with the mid-autumn festival.

cooking workshop participants

Participants at the Pho-tastic Family Cooking Workshops

This Spring we have also returned to the kitchen for more of our popular cooking workshops, this time for families to enjoy together. The first session of Pho-tastic cooking began last Wednesday with a family friendly tour on the story behind Tu Do. Participants shared their favourite foods and their cooking disaster stories and got to meet our friendly chef Tom who escorted them to the Yots café kitchen. Here they undertook culinary challenges and learned to create a delicious Vietnamese noodle dish, all while dressed to theme and cute as a button in striped aprons and paper chef hats.

lion dancers

Lion Dancers from Sydney Indochinese Youth Sport Association

Lion Dancers from Sydney Indochinese Youth Sport Association

Today the festivities continued as more Lion Dancers, this time from Sydney Indochinese Youth Sport Association provided a captivating finale to the cultural performances. Last week these also included some enchanting and adorable young dancers from Southwest Sydney as Canley Vale, Cabramatta and Lansvale Public School’s Vietnamese, Khmer and Chinese dance troupes performed. Waving scarves, tipping conical hats , tapping coconut shells and fanning chopsticks these young dancers won over the audiences with their beautiful renditions of traditional dance forms.

Kids on Deck: Dragons, Dreams and Dragnets continues every day in holidays and every Sunday in Term 4More information on school holiday programs can be found at