T-shirt, Circus Oz, Nanjing Project, silk screened cotton, made by Swan Brand, China, screen printed by Hellen Sky, Australia, 1983 - 1984
The silk screened images was designed by Hellen Sky, who worked as an aerialist with Soapbox Circus and Circus Oz till the early 1980s. She was also a musician, choreographer and dancer.
The shirt was made in China and is sold under the 'Swan' brand. The design on the front of the shirt was silk screened by Hellen Sky, who worked as an aerialist with Soapbox Circus and Circus Oz till the early 1980s. She was also a musician, choreographer and dancer.
Made and used during the period of 1983-1984
In 1983-84 Chinas Nanjing Acrobatic troupe visited Australia to teach and train with local troupes. The donor Kerry Dwyer wore the 'Persistence leads to success' t-shirt while training with the Nanjing troupe, learning various acrobatic and balancing routines including the trick of balancing 17 people on one bicycle. Although she only wore the shirt in training, she performed a balancing act in the Great Leap Forward show. Featuring members of Circus Oz, the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, the Leapers, outside artists and visiting students, this show was the culmination of three months of training during which young Australian performers had the opportunity of working with and learning from the Nanjing troupe.
Kerry Dwyer had been a founding member of APG at the Pram Factory and La Mama in the early 1970s. With an interest in physical theatre, she became a circus performer, toured with Circus Oz and has directed the Wimmins Circus. Both her children travelled with Circus Oz with their mother. 'It seemed like an romantic thing to do to go off in the circus with the children' (Kerry Dwyer, interview with Peter Cox, April 1998). They joined Circus Oz in 1981 when it went to Port Fairy, then on a Murray River tour, then to Canberra (around Christmas 1981). She and the children lived 'on the lot' with the circus at Sydney's Wentworth Park, June to August 1982. The kids went to school at Darlinghurst but liked to involve themselves with the circus. They operated the fairy floss van, making and selling this confectionery. Nellie also made biscuits on the bus and sold them at interval as 'Nellie's bus-made bikkies'. At the ages 6 and 9, Nellie and Jake Blundell called a circus meeting and announced that they wanted to appear in the show performing a clown routine. Along with another boy named Toby, the kids developed their own act, 'The Honeybee and the Hive', making their costumes and devising a routine themselves. (They did not wear the t-shirts in their act). Kerry Dwyer has appeared in the films On Guard and Molly, and has directed films including Bruce Cuts off his Hands.
The t-shirt was a gift from the designer Hellen Sky to the donor Kerry Dwyer.