OzAsia Festival was established by Adelaide Festival Centre’s CEO and Artistic Director, Douglas Gautier AM, in 2007. Presented annually in spring by Adelaide Festival Centre, OzAsia Festival has grown to become Australia’s leading contemporary arts festival engaging with Asia, attracting audiences of up to 200,000 each year.
Adelaide Festival Centre welcomed Annette Shun Wah as Artistic Director from 2020 – 2023.
2020 - Present
With the worldwide disruption of the COVID-19 epidemic, the festival was cancelled in 2020. Instead, Artistic Director Annette Shun Wah took the opportunity to curate a series of online discussions with arts leaders in the region to discuss the shifts in thinking that the pandemic had provoked.
These conversations influenced her programming for the 2021 OzAsia Festival, although this too was affected by travel restrictions. Nevertheless audiences embraced Shun Wah’s return to the Festival’s focus on the cultural engagement of Asia and Australia.
Her programming is built around three strands: exciting contemporary works that provide a snapshot of what is happening in Asia; collaboration between Australian and Asian artists; and a showcase of contemporary Asian-Australian works. Audiences flocked to the theatrical and culinary masterpiece Double Delicious, the delightful Special Comedy Comedy Special and the rare opportunity to feast on the footbridge with Parwana’s Lunch on the Riverbank.
Another key driver of her programming is to engage local communities more deeply within the festival’s activities, and she has developed pathways and opportunities for South Australian artists. Shun Wah also plans to embed the important conversations of the day in the free writing and ideas program In Other Words.
The Moon Lantern Trail was a popular re-imagining of the Moon Lantern Parade, ensuring the much-loved lanterns will continue to grow as a feature of the Festival. With the expansion of the Lucky Dumpling Market across Elder Park, the entire precinct shines as never before during the three weeks of OzAsia Festival.
2015 - 2019
In 2015, Joseph Mitchell became the OzAsia Festival Artistic Director. He shifted the program rationale from focusing on a single country each year and instead threw it wide open to showcase the best contemporary art and artists from across Asia, including the Middle East.
Mitchell’s expansive and boundary-breaking programs consistently include numerous Australian and World Premieres across theatre, music, dance, visual art, film and literature. Other achievements include a major outdoor element, the OzAsia Festival hub (called the Lucky Dumpling Market since 2017); commissioning the giant Hong Kong Dragon Lantern, which requires 40 people to carry it through the Moon Lantern Parade; and introducing a satellite event of the Jaipur Literature Festival as the official literature program.
Since 2015, several major OzAsia Festival commissions have received national and international acclaim, including Scary Beauty, a chamber opera by Keiichiro Shibuya featuring a robot with AI accompanied by the Australian Art Orchestra; Sk!N an immersive theatre/dance experience by TerryandtheCuz; Music in Anticlockwise by Gaybird Leung and Zephyr Quartet; Close Company, a dance collaboration between Alison Currie and RAW Moves; and more.
OzAsia Festival has evolved to become one of Australia’s leading and most influential international arts festivals and it continues to play a significant role in introducing new contemporary arts from Asia to Australian audiences.
2007 - 2014
OzAsia Festival began when Douglas Gautier approached the then-Chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission and former Governor of South Australia, The Hon. Hieu Van Le AC, inaugural OzAsia Festival Patron, with the intent to establish an international arts festival that recognised the important relationships between Australia and countries throughout Asia. Their aim was to showcase the cross-cultural dialogues, exchanges, and artistic collaborations in the region.
The inaugural OzAsia Festival was held 21 September – 7 October 2007. Its program was built on four key pillars: performing arts, visual arts, cultural debate, and community involvement; and included the free Moon Lantern Parade in Elder Park– the first of its kind to be held in Adelaide.
The first OzAsia Festival program was put together by Executive Director, Nick Skibinski, who was succeeded by Jacinta Thompson the following year. From 2010 – 2015, the festival undertook a country of focus initiative, each year emphasising a particular country to grow stronger cultural ties between Australia and key countries in the region. 2010 it was Korea; 2011, Japan; 2012, India; 2013, Malaysia; and 2014, Thompson’s last program, China.