Chasing the rainbows of Aquarius

Graeme Dunstan enjoys the Nimbin MardiGrass parade in 2011. Photo Jeff Dawson

Graeme Dunstan

It is the Nimbin Mardi Grass setup. The village is abuzz with activity – old friends reuniting, the smoko circulating.

Peacebus is parked behind the Green Bank and I am rigging rainbow-striped flags pulled out of storage for Nimbin’s ‘Merry Month of May’ and its ‘Celebration of Colour’. The 45th anniversary of the Aquarius Festival is an insert.

In truth it’s the kind of vacuous marketing tag that makes me want to gag. But hey? I am just a flag rigger in this game.

Fluttering memories

The flags predate the Marriage Equality campaign by 15 years. They speak to me of a time when the rainbow was the symbol of unity in diversity, of the broad counterculture, and we were daring and progressive on all fronts.

In that time there was a Rainbow Warrior bearing witness on the high seas to French nuke testing.

The flags also speak to me of the Rainbow Region, which was the marketing tag given to the northern rivers region after the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius by my Aquarius comrade, cultural entrepreneur and troublemaker, the late Paul Joseph.

And once more I am swimming in grief for absent friends.

Walking along Cullen Street where my heels have trod for so many years that the very cracks in the pavement are familiar to me, I scan the crowd and see lookalikes in hair and dress styles. The same from years past and they could be me or my age-mates, the same characters from different ages.

All hail the enduring nature of the counterculture! Endlessly repeating itself and endlessly renewed.

But oh so few familiar faces. And likewise me unrecognised, a grey beard on a passing shadow.

Chasing rainbows

After the very successful 40th anniversary we had talked of a 50th. But Aquarians began dropping off perches and tall trees fell at an accelerated rate.

Site manager Ian ‘Precious’ Chance dead last January. Rainbow artist and muralist, Vernon Treweeke, gone the next year. We hastened to anniversaries at five-year intervals, lest…

Old age, sickness and death. Not exactly merry.

Then I walk out back of the HEMP Embassy and see the volunteer kitchen, the young volunteers and the advanced setup. Such cultural confidence. Such amenity, such goodwill and good vibe, and I imagine seeing Nimbin for the first time through those young eyes.

The glory of the mist-wreathed mountains, the vibrant greens and eye-shiningly beautiful anarchy of it all.

And my grief becomes a lovely river.

Time to gather

Come gather, my Aquarian friends. Let’s remember and grieve, commemorate, give praise and give thanks.

Many are the ancestors who have gone before, many the future generations following.

The 45th Anniversary of the Nimbin Aquarius Festival will be celebrated at the Channon Market, on Sunday, 13 May. See the program, or check out the Facebook events page at:

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