Featured speakers and performers at Boomerang – the global indigenous arts and cultural festival happening within Bluesfest this year – will provide festival-goers with a unique experience of music, dance and culture, and encourages engagement, education and inclusion. With healing, dance, weaving, workshops and more, it even also includes lots of talking, and also welcomes non-indigenous fellas to the stage, including journalist George Negus, The Hon Tony Burke, member for Watson and composer Craig Pilkington. Here are just some of the people sharing their wisdom over Bluesfest long weekend.
Rako dance encompasses traditional Rotuman dance, Polynesian and Melanesian dance as well as modern dance forms such as hip-hop, crump, b-boy and break. Rediscovering myths and legends, and drawing from traditional animals, plants and trees, the Rako Dance group now incorporate elements unique to the Rotuman culture and Island and have an extensive collection of chants, dances as part of their production titled Armea.
From the rich storytelling traditions of Aboriginal New South Wales, Jannawi Dance Theatre’s Megamara shines a light on the strength, resilience and beauty of young Aboriginal women and culture today. Artistic director Peta Strachan, a leading female Aboriginal dancer, is nurturing the next generation of female performers. Jannawi Dance Theatre is a Sydney-based dance company encompassing contemporary and traditional styles with dancers and students predominantly from the inner western suburbs and surrounding areas. Peta and Jannawi have been involved in many events performances, productions, teaching, costumes and workshops including World Masters Games opening ceremony, Sydney Opera House events such as Message Sticks, Utzon memorial, Opera House 40th birthday celebrations, City of Sydney’s NAIDOC events and many more.
Malu Kiai Mura Buai Dance Troupe
From Boigu Island, located in the top western part of the Torres Strait and the most northerly inhabited island of Australia separating Cape York Peninsula from the island of New Guinea, the performers share their traditional songs and dances that have been passed down from generation to generation, based on the everyday life of island stories.
The members of Excelsior are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island descent. The clan groups they belong to range from north and central Queensland down to north and central New South Wales. Debuting in February 2014, they have performed at Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s Clancestry, Sydney Opera House’s Asian Football Cup draw, and opening for the Chooky Dancers show Djuki Mala at the Judith Wright Centre.
Byron Bay’s local Indigenous dance group and representative of Bundjalung land, the Arakwal dancers, welcome Bluesfest patrons to country at the opening ceremony every year. The Arakwal Aboriginal Corporation does fantastic work to educate locals and visitors alike, and keeps local stories alive through educational programs and various artistic activities. The Arakwal dance group have performed many openings and welcome-to-country ceremonies. They have reclaimed several new language songs which were performed at the 2015 Dancerites event at the Sydney Opera House.
Going Wanhurr and East Journey
Under the direction of Bangarra performer Djakapurra Munyarryun, the dance is a two-way experience. Linking western and Yolgnu cultures, and knowledged together through dance or Bungull and Manikay songs that share the ideas and the philosophy of country and culture and how our culture and napaki (non-Indigenous) should live together. The Yolgnu were among Australia’s earliest international traders, maintaining trade and cultural exchanges with the Macassans for six centuries. This diverse group represent the clans of the Dhalinbuy region in northeast Arnhem Land and have toured the globe with their performances and yidaki playing. Featuring members of contemporary band East Journey, this displays the magic of intergenerational exchange and connections through dance and music.
As a singer/songwriter, storyteller and registered music therapist, for Getano Bann, music, dance, storytelling and humour were an influential and integral part of his childhood, growing up in an extended Torres Strait Islander family. As a music therapist Getano works with children on the streets, in drug rehabilitation and in detention centres, and is passionate about the power of music and the arts in healing process. His songs are a rich blend and mixture of musical styles including latin, blues, soul, funk, ballads, reggae and rock. Getano intertwines family stories, cultural perspectives, life lessons, self-reflective moments and dollops of humour, which makes a performance of irresistible listening and entertaining moments. Getano works as a registered music therapist specialising in children and adolescents issues including addictions, self-esteem, anger, grief loss and bereavement and mental health.
Nancy Bates is a Barkindji woman from far western New South Wales who is fast becoming part of the national Aboriginal music community, having completed a season as a member of Archie Roach’s Into the Bloodstream Gospel Choir. Nancy has received wide exposure in 2013 with her track Old Black Woman and award nods include a Top 10 placement in the APRA Indigenous Songwriters category. Nancy’s performances have included Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin festivals, Deadly Awards, SA NAIDOC Ball, Reconciliation Annual Breakfast Event, Taoundi College 40th Year Celebration, Spirit Festival, Adelaide Fringe (Garden of Unearthly Delights).
A Wiradjuri man, Joe Williams played in the NRL for South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs before switching to professional boxing in 2009. Joe is a two-time WBF World Junior Welterweight champion, and recently won the WBC Asia Continental title. Joe is currently working full time as the Aboriginal education worker at Mater Dei Catholic College. Apart from being involved with professional sport for more than 15 years, Joe now spends his time working to inspire youth and individuals through motivational speaking workshops. Joe has spent time working with disengaged youth in high schools and primary schools, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres, and jails, and has mentored both youth and adults. Privately Joe has had his own battles, struggles and setbacks, which culminated in his own suicide attempt in 2011.
Clayton Donovan is Australia’s most acclaimed Indigenous chef. Growing up in northern New South Wales, Clayton started learning about native produce when he was four years old, out walking with his aunties and grandmothers, taking what they found in the bush or along the coastline and cooking it up at their homes. In his developing years as a chef he developed his own style of cooking, learning to use native ingredients in a restaurant environment. Integrating ingredients such as wattleseed, rosella and myrtles into Asian- and European-inspired dishes, he applied to work at the prestigious Watermark restaurant at Balmoral Beach, Sydney. Clayton was introduced to the secrets and gastronomic intricacies involved in creating and presenting dishes in first-class hatted restaurants, including in England, where he took sous chef and head chef positions in restaurants such as Fowey Hall and Boscundle Manor. Clayton continues to source ingredients from the bush, foraging to introduce new and exciting flavours to his menus. He received a chef’s hat from the Good Food Guide in 2011. His international experience with his understanding of Australian native foods to produce a unique and contemporary cuisine with an Indigenous twist is highly regarded by publishers and food editors. Clayton Donovan reached a new level as writer and presenter on ABC TV program Wild Kitchen. The series was aired all over the world on Virgin aircrafts, rail networks and popular online channels.
Troy’s musical career began at 16 when he taught himself to play guitar from a songbook of The Shadows provided by his father. Two years later, his singing talent was noticed by his mother when she heard him and some friends having a singalong to a boombox in the garage. This resulted in his involvement in the group AIM4MORE for four years. In late 2001, Troy entered the audition process for Channel Seven’s Popstars series three, billed as the world’s first TV search for a solo artist. Out of 6,000 entries, on 17 March 2002 Troy was officially announced as being one of the final seven. The finalists were each required to record their take on Stevie Wonder’s classic Superstition. Troy’s rendition is a distinctive soulful R&B version, reflecting his personal style and respect for the original. Troy is a proud Birriggubba man, born in Rockhampton, north Queensland.
Delvene Cockatoo Collins
A Nunukul, Ngugi and Goenpul woman of Quandamooka country, Delvene Cockatoo Collins’s arts practice includes textiles, ceramics and jewellery making. The stories shared through these media are those of her family’s lived experiences on Minjerribah, the natural environment, and her responses to representations of images and objects of Quandamooka. For jewellery-making workshops, Delvene provides her handcrafted ceramic beads and collected natural items including seeds. At the Boomerang Festival jewellery-making workshops, Delvene will be joined by her mother and sister.
A Ngugi woman form Stradbroke Island, Sonja gathers un-gaire (swamp reeds) and grass fibres as well as nets, ropes, plastics and other materials such as marine debris that have been discarded into the ocean and found washed up on the beautiful shores of Minjerribah. With these materials, she utilises traditional weaving techniques, creating hand-woven baskets and showing kids how to make turtles. Collecting the debris, her works directly respond to current environmental concerns regarding the preservation of the natural environment by transforming the discarded materials into functional and contemporary artworks.
From the Gamillaroi Bigambul peoples Dhinawan, aka Mick Baker, is known for his spontaneous, straight-from-the-heart cultural commentary. Founder and frontman of Dhinawan Dreaming, the Byron Bay-based entertainer uses the media of dance, song and storytelling to promote cultural awareness and understanding in a humorous, insightful and thought-provoking way.
When not spearheading anti-bullying programs in primary schools and painting boards for pro surfer Kelly Slater, Dhinawan travels regularly overseas to perform in the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scotland, and Italy.
Clarence Slockee, from the Mindjingbal clan of the Bundjalung, is a graduate from the National Aboriginal & Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College. Clarence has gained experience across a broad range of performance media, but his passion remains with his farming roots and ensuring the biodiversity of native species. He has worked for many years as the education co-coordinator in Aboriginal programs with Sydney Botanical Gardens and more recently managing cultural tourism at the Baranagroo Parklands. With his regular segment on ABC TV series Gardening Australia, he continues to educate many about the medicinal, cultural and edible plants you need to know about when foraging.
Richard Frankland is an AFI filmmaker, musician, writer and an extraordinary storyteller. Richard was nominated for Australian of the Year in 2011 in particular for his work with Indigenous community groups, including his work on the eradication of Lateral Violence with the Australian Indigenous population, a topic that he will be delving into at Boomerang Festival. Richard Frankland is a proud Gunditjmara man who worked as a field officer to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. This experience inspired him to write several plays, including No Way to Forget, Who Killed Malcolm Smith and Conversations with the Dead. Frankland won an AFI Award for Best Screenplay in a Short for his short film No Way to Forget. It was the first film by an Indigenous director to win an AFI Award. It was broadcast nationally on SBS TV and screened at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival in the category of Un Certain Regard. Richard also wrote and directed Harry’s War, a feature film based on his uncle’s role in World War II on the Kokoda Track. The film was screened at the British War Memorial in London and won Best Short Film at Spike Lee’s Alternative Oscars for black filmmakers in Hollywood. In 2004, his play Conversations with the Dead was performed at the United Nations.
With Gamilaroi Torres Strait Islander heritage, Nakkiah Lui is one of Australia’s exciting new playwrights. In the short space of her 25 years, she has studied abroad, all but finished a law degree, and had a playwright residency at Belvoir St Theatre. The inaugural winner of The Dreaming Award national arts prize, and Belvoir’s Balnaves Indigenous Playwright Award in 2012, she went on to write and perform in the production To Kill the Messenger. More recently she was commissioned as one of the writers for series one and two of ABC TV’s hit breakout skit comedy sensation Black Comedy.
A NIDA graduate from the JabirrJabirr / Bardi peoples, Sebbens is one of six children, born and raised in Darwin. She featured in the feature film Sapphires and is a regular on a number of television series including the award-winning Redfern Now, The Gods of Wheat Street, and the new comedy series 8MMM. A well-known theatre performer, she recently appeared in the Sydney theatre production The Battle of Waterloo and the Belvoir Street production of Radiance.
From the island of Rotuman, Letila Mitchell is founder of the Pacific Arts Alliance Trustee and current secretary-general. She is also the director of the Fiji Arts Council. She is a visual and performing artist with 15 years’ experience, performing and working in the Pacific, London, New Zealand and Australia. Letila has extensive networks in the trade, tourism and arts sector throughout the region.
Young environmentalist of the year 2015 and former school captain of Lismore High, Bundjalung woman Amelia set up Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, an organisation that supports Aboriginal people aged under 30 who want to participate in environmental debates. Seed has trained 50 youth representatives in public speaking and media and project management. They are now participating in important debates concerning the effects of sea-level rise on the Torres Strait, and in negotiations with Aboriginal landholders in Queensland regarding what could become the country’s largest coal mine in the Galilee Basin.
John Faunt is a music artist from Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Over the years John has been performing in Papua New Guinea and Melanesia with his band Hausboi and is an active Manus Garamut (slit log) drummer. John is now based in Brisbane, and is on the board of the Wantok Musik Foundation (wantokmusik.org), assisting their work with Indigenous music and culture in the region. John continues to follow his passion in preserving and showcasing his traditional Manus Island heritage through a new solo music album, while working on the Lukautim Pasin Tumbuna or Safeguard our Cultural Heritage project documenting and protecting sacred Manus traditional rhythms and dances from the effects of modernisation. John is passionately driven to be a voice for his Manus people by giving a more balanced picture of the island province and portray its beauty, culture and people to the world.
Te Kopere healing program
Under the guidance of healer Christine Bullock, New Zealand’s Rongoa Maori is the traditional healing system of Maori. It focuses on the oral transmission of knowledge, diversity of practice and the spiritual dimension of health. Rongoa Maori encompasses herbal remedies, physical therapies and spiritual healing. Experience the real art of Rongoa Maori healing at Boomerang. Maori are indigenous to Aotearoa (New Zealand) and at Boomerang Festival you will have the opportunity to take part in some very special workshops that will have you walk away feeling focused and centred.
More stories from Bluesfest 2016
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