International Migrants Day - In Conversation with CeeJay Singh

Mon, Dec 18 2023
Happy International Migrants Day! To acknowledge and celebrate, we decided to ask Fringe Artist and Migrant to Australia, CeeJay Singh, a few questions about his experiences.
A photo of artist CJ stands in front on a backdrop that says Adelaide Fringe.
Program Launch. Photo: Carl Vester, Adelaide Fringe 2023
CeeJay is an Australian actor working on stage, television and films. Having received training in Sydney from the Academy of Film, Theatre and Television, and KNK Institute in Mumbai, CeeJay has performed in ‘A Play Without a Title’ at Belvoir St Theatre, Richard the Third, Lost Lives at Holden Street Theatre in Adelaide Fringe 2021 and in the critically acclaimed Norm and Ahmed in Adelaide Fringe 2022. 

He has worked in Bollywood, local TV commercials and short films. His play ‘The Good Immigrant’ premiered at the Adelaide Fringe 2023 and won the revered ‘Spirit of the fringe’ award.

CeeJay arrived in Australia more than a decade ago, check out our chat with CeeJay below.

How do you feel now compared to when you first arrived?
To be honest, I felt more comfortable when I arrived compared to now. I feel I was more welcomed back then. Of course there were some unpleasant experiences but overall it was better. I feel intolerance has increased over the years towards immigrants, not necessarily due to the immigrants themselves, but because of the whole changed political and economic scenario, not just in Australia but worldwide. 

What does being an Immigrant in Australia mean to you? 
Being an immigrant in Australia means the feeling of acceptance. 

Your show ‘The Good Immigrant’ talks about your journey to Australia. Can you give us a small summary of it?
‘The Good Immigrant’ is inspired by my journey in Australia since I first arrived here and also the experiences of my close friends and other fellow immigrants arriving in Australia. The show is a cultivation of my experience that you cannot label anyone good or bad. Ultimately, we all are the same regardless of our colour, race, religion or caste. We all have good and bad within ourselves. In the times of only one popular narrative of racism, the show talks about the other hidden racism which no one talks about because they don’t want to offend the so called oppressed minorities and this political correctness is not always correct in the highly multicultural society where diversity is the common ground for Australia to flourish. To understand the diversity, first we have to understand the misunderstandings in the society.

Why is it important for you to share your migrant story on the stage?
It is important to share my migrant story because Australia is a country of migrants and every year hundreds of thousands migrants arrive here and they should know that what they expect from the community, they should be offering the same.

What plans do you have for the future and what can we look forward to?
I have two more shows coming up during the Adelaide Fringe 2024. One of them particularly deals with the issue related particularly to the migrant communities.

Has performing at Adelaide Fringe changed your experience as a migrant?
Adelaide Fringe has provided me with a platform which would have been very difficult otherwise. I think performing in Adelaide Fringe has made me a better thinker, it has made me aware of my own shortcomings. I am more aware towards the world I live in and a little bit recognisable in the community.

Looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations as an immigrant in Australia? How do you see yourself and your story impacting or contributing to the community in the future?
My hope is that the community is more understanding and accepting towards the migrants regardless of where they come from. My aspiration is to take my show ‘The Good Immigrant’ interstate and internationally and if it could change just a single person's mindset how they view their fellow countrymen or immigrants who they don't consider equal, then I will think the show has its mission accomplished.

What advice would you give to other immigrants who are just beginning their journey in Australia?
I would say to the other immigrants that you chose this country for a reason. Respect the culture and law of the country you are coming to. Be the one you want the others to be.

Australia is known for its multicultural society. How do you perceive the role of diversity in shaping the community here, especially in terms of arts and culture?
Diversity can play a huge role in Australian art and culture. The migrant communities have a lot to offer in terms of their art and culture and we are yet to see that participation in the wave of token diversity. And it starts from the top where some institutions promote diversity so that they have a photo opportunity for an instagram story or a post to share to tell the world how well we are supporting multiculturalism in Australia. This does not translate on the ground level in reality.

A true diversity in art and culture has the power to bring harmony between communities and ultimately bring them closer. In all honesty, Adelaide Fringe is a true Torch-Bearer in this sense. 
Make sure you show your support and book tickets to CeeJay’s Adelaide Fringe show Yogambling here.