“Once you are an artist you put your hands to many things.” Sketa
How does a young Toowoomba singer and dancer become a Korean icon in television, a translator of the Korean opera, Pansori, an educator with degrees in Visual Arts and Modern Asian Studies, and more recently the author of four published children’s books with her own publishing house?
According to Selina Kucks, you jump right in and get hugely wet! “My blinkers were wide open and I was in the right place, at the right time, doing the right things” she says.
Formerly a ballet dancer with the Brisbane City Dance Company, Selina jumped at the chance to sing and dance in Korea during the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Little did she know the seed had been planted, and Korea would play an indelible role in her future. A part-time job at the Australian Embassy’s Queensland House in London followed, supplementing Selina’s role as student dancer with the Royal Ballet. But the bug had bitten, and an interest in learning the Korean language led to a Degree in Modern Asian Studies with a Korean major, and she spent another six months in Korea studying the politics and language, singing opera and generally experiencing the country, its people and its culture.
Love blossomed, and more opportunities arose, including to translate Pansori opera – Korean stories passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, television game shows, appearing on the KBS Morning Show, reporting for cultural shows and hosting cooking events. A foreigner speaking Korean was a novelty. The skills Selina acquired at Queensland House led to her becoming chief editor with UNESCO translating magazines, speeches and documents, and simultaneously working at the Foreign School teaching dance.
Next, in what she describes as the most fulfilling time of her life, Selina was teaching in a very poor area of Seoul, a forgotten area. She would write books for the children to read, helping the kids grow in their learning and confidence so they could have a chance of a brighter future. From there, another series of stories – tales within tales – evolved. Selina’s books include The Parchment, The Parchment Tale Unfolds, The Magical Parchment, and the latest, Possum Tales, all written under the alias of Sketa. “I never thought I would be a novelist, nor have a publishing house, but I want to develop educational books in Korean or English to help kids understand another culture when they take on language studies through the Australian system. I also want to encourage corporate businesses to give meaningful gifts in the form of books which will help kids with deficits in literacy skills. Illiteracy strikes any family at any point in time. Those kids are left by the wayside.”
A Korean husband, a son and after a span of 25 years in her adopted country has found Selina back in her home town of Toowoomba, where she teaches Korean language at various schools on the Downs in between book writing, illustrating and publishing. The tale within tales continues…
Words and Images by Janine Waters