Featuring a curated edit of South Sudanese-Australian musicians, artists and creators leading the charge.
MELBOURNE, Australia. March 2022. On April 16th, Nostalgic Events and Bunjil Place will host the 2022 edition of Rise Of South Sudan (R.O.S.S.) Music and Arts Festival — the third annual celebration of South Sudanese-Australian musical and creative talent.
Set in the community hub of Bunjil Place in Melbourne’s South-East, this year’s festival will feature a line-up of thirteen artists and creators. From r’n’b and hip hop to neo-funk and rock’ n soul, for one night only, South Sudanese musicians of varying genres will take the stage, alongside poets, storytellers, dancers and performance artists.
R.O.S.S. was conceptualised in 2017 by Nostalgic Events director Kush K. T. Kuiy as a benefit concert to fund the building of a maternal and child health hospital in South Sudan.
While the idea that sparked the concept has shifted to the end goal, the founders’ short-term mission is focused on artist amplification and exposure, providing a platform for South Sudanese-Australian creatives to share their stories through their chosen artistic medium. In Kush’s own words:
“The idea for R.O.S.S. was born upon my father’s return from visiting family in Ethiopia and South Sudan. He was disturbed and upset by the state of maternal and child healthcare in our communities back home. I was an optimistic 20-year-old at the time, and while I didn’t know how to build a hospital, I knew I could put on an event to bring attention to the issue and raise money to go towards the cause. At this point, I proposed the idea to J.D. (R.O.S.S. ‘s creative director), who immediately shared my vision.”
The idea generated interest among Kush and J.D.’s creative and musical peers, who came together to discuss the specifics of the proposed benefit concert — the line-up, the name, the messaging and all things in between. Here, the acronym R.O.S.S.was established as both a play on their country’s name, the Republic of South Sudan, and as a manifestation of the republic’s social and political ‘rising’. Kush reflects:
“I love thinking about the origin story of R.O.S.S. because it all started so beautifully, with a bunch of very young people, sitting in my living room, talking about this dream”.
R.O.S.S.Artists; Prez, Jacki Tut, Tebir
With a vivacious and growing South Sudanese diaspora located in the South-Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, keeping the event local was of the utmost importance. With both directors also residing in the South-East, it simply made sense to provide an offering that would cater to and involve the local community:
“As an independent producer, 99% of my practice is based in the South-East; providing platforms for local creatives to perform and bringing arts and culture to the precinct”, says Kush. “I want audience members and artists alike, to feel like we have our own culture here that we can be proud of.”
On the artistic direction behind this year’s festival, J.D.’s creative concept was inspired by the local community’s resilience, strength, and endurance, with the theme acting as a reminder that the only person you are in competition with, in art and life, is yourself. J.D. elaborates:
“We live in a competitive world, and sometimes it may feel like society has cast a powerful trick on you to constantly feel pressured to compete with one another. I like to believe that the only person we truly have to fight or face at the end of every turmoil is ourselves.”
The biggest and most considered event to date, R.O.S.S. Music and Arts Festival,2022, will host an eclectic assortment of incredible artists, making waves locally and fast becoming ones to watch within the national music landscape.
Clockwise from left; Akelough (visual artist), YTS Gucciboi, AG Johnson, Jag
Here, the uplifting melodies of AG Johnson, Jag, Jacki Tut, and Achai will enlighten and inspire, while lyrical powerhouses Nyareth and Flora Chol command the floor with their creative forms of musical activism.
On the hip hop tip, industry heavyweights Malesh P & Flexx will deliver their mindful musings alongside the artistic prowess of YTS Gucciboi and PREZ, the sonic splendour of Mike Wang, and the music-meets-performance-art of Tèbir and his band. Also on show will be the kaleidoscopic artwork of Mr Unique and A.Costa, providing vibrant visual accompaniment to all performing artist’s repertoires.
R.O.S.S.Artists; Achai Ross, Flora Chol & Mike Wang
Both Kush and J.D. proclaim that this year’s festival will be the most highly produced and considered yet. Kush continues:
“Attendees can expect a dynamic and seamless show this year. We’ve upped our game as far as production goes to include high-quality sound, lighting and visuals, giving the show an atmospheric element never seen before at R.O.S.S. Providing the best tools to ensure our line-up of incredible artists can perform to the best of their abilities was paramount in creating this year’s festival,” says Kush.
Kush and J.D are dreaming big at the prospect of R.O.S.S.’s future, with plans for international iterations and an eventual homecoming to South Sudan:
“Kush and I talk about taking R.O.S.S. back to South Sudan one day”, says J.D. “We hope in future to host bigger events and festivals worldwide, showcasing the amazing talent of young South Sudanese communities and the African diaspora as a whole.”
R.O.S.S founders; Kush & JD
This year’s showcase was made possible by Nostalgic Events, Bunjil Place, Creative Victoria and the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.