Castlemaine State Festival in collaboration with Arena Theatre Company presents

Opening Night: Ajak Kwai & Riel Dë Nyiër

World Premiere

In this invigorating opening night world premiere, award-winning singer-songwriter and activist Ajak Kwai will bid you dance the Festival into life with her funky afro-beats and extraordinary voice. Flitting between Arabic, Sudanese and English, Kwai sings of her exile from South Sudan as a refugee. After a Dja Dja Wurrung Welcome to Country, this concert will draw you into a full 17 days of myriad creative experiences.

Kwai will be welcomed to the stage by Riel Dë Nyiër (meaning strong love), a musical arrangement featuring live acapella chants matched with dramatic percussion, and original song compositions sung in English and Dinka by the Bendigo South Sudanese Women’s Ensemble. The work, a celebration of South Sudanese culture in Central Victoria intertwines stories and original songs of the civil war in South Sudan with personal accounts of each of the performers unique journey in now calling Australia home. Ranging between 14 and 62 in age, these women are from the Dinka (Bor), Twic Mayaardit and Bahr El Ghazal tribes, the very union of which is progressive in spirit. Riel Dë Nyiër is born of a spectacular collaboration with Arena Theatre Company, led by local composer Eliza Hull.


Ajak Kwai – Musical Director & Co-creator
Eliza Hull – Director
Matt Erickson – Base guitar
Kundpe Kofi – Percussion
Kumra Shome – Lead guitar
Abuk Malual – Performer & Co-creator
Abuol Mabior – Performer & Co-creator
Akuol Ajhok – Performer & Co-creator
Dabora Dout – Performer & Co-creator
Atil Angeth – Performer & Co-creator
Awel Ngor – Performer & Co-creator
Kotnyin Thon – Performer & Co-creator
Martha Kudum – Performer & Co-creator
Nyang Mayen – Performer & Co-creator

Ajak Kwai has a smile that fills a room and a voice that should be filling a stadium. – INDAILY

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Festivals Australia program.
Presented with special support from Marshall and Marysia Segan