Emotions research catalyst for successful partnership

Emotions research was the catalyst for a successful research-based project that has led to the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE) being awarded the prestigious 2017 CHASS Australia Prize for Distinctive Work in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

The Centre, based at The University of Western Australia, collaborated with the Kalbarri Development Association (KDA) to create the Zest Festival, which ran from 2012–2016.  CHE’s work on the Zest Festival is distinctive for its engagement of a rural community in a cultural project with substantial artistic, intellectual and emotional scope.

“I think part of what made the Zest Festival so successful was the fact that through emotions research we could help to build a bridge connecting residents from Kalbarri with the past. It made history applicable today. It made it their history and their past”, Professor Susan Broomhall, CHE Chief Investigator, said.

Inspired to commemorate the encounters of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) with the Australian coast, the Zest ‘journey’ mirrored the VOC trade route, annually focusing on specific geo-historical spheres of cultural influence from the Netherlands to Japan.

CHE, chosen from amongst 83 nominations for this award, developed research materials, artistic prompts and workshops to inspire community learning and reflection on the emotional heritage that connects international contact histories with contemporary Australian society. The Centre translated its research into annual education packs with cross-disciplinary lessons for years K–10.

According to CHE Director, Professor Andrew Lynch, ‘This recognition of the ARC Centre for the History of Emotions’ work in the Zest Festival shows the value of long-term funding in building research-based projects that can have major community impact’.

CHE funded artistic incursions to the school and supported projects amongst the extended community, culminating in broad participation in performances and exhibitions with multicultural, indigenous and historical themes. Students were exposed to a broader range of cultural experiences than the town is usually able to offer, supporting them in their development of confidence and empathy.

The Zest Festival foregrounded the historical and contemporary voices of the indigenous Nhanda community in Kalbarri. It fostered national and international networks exposing Kalbarri to cultural exchanges including the tangible exchange of artefacts and multimedia resources.

"It has been a privilege to have been involved in the Zest Festival from the very beginning and to be part of this research journey”, Broomhall said. “I have learned so much from the Nhanda and Kalbarri community, and have seen the importance of our historical research as it shapes the region's emotions and identities today and into the future."

Click here to view a short documentary about the festival. 

Media Contact

Dr Elizabeth Reid  (Elizabeth.reid@uwa.edu.au) or +61 8 6488 3858
Zest Festival Project Officer