This was one mighty festival that is sure to grow and become a beacon of strength for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the lands.
Ever since I finished working out of Mount Isa I have dreamt about finding a way to be more involved with Aboriginal and Torres Strait people and their communities. The Queensland Gulf towns of Mornington Island, Doomadgee and Normanton hold a very special places in my heart and not for the reasons you may expect. Sure there was rugged beauty, stillness and a feeling of discovery. But, for me it was the people that made the experience so special.
I connect very closely with the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people limit their social filters and have no hesitation talking from the heart. During my time running programs up north I had an opportunity to be part of some amazing conversations about culture and what it means to be Aboriginal in Australia. What I heard was a loss of identity and feeling of hopelessness that can eat away at some people in the community and lead down a path of self destruction. And while its the story that we hear often in the media, its only a small part of the story. The stories that continue to give me hope for the future are the ones about community members that live culturally strong lives and work tirelessly to support others to do the same. They are the ones dancing, singing and hunting in the ways of their ancestors and teaching everyone that is willing to listen about the strengths of culture and what it means to live on country.
These same communities come under a lot of fire from the Australian public because of the issues with drug and alcohol abuse, violence and child mistreatment. But, if you have a chance to scratch the surface just a little you will find a culture that has the capability to lift everyone to new levels of strength and work towards thriving communities.
These are the strengths that I experienced as part of the Boomerang Festival at Bluesfest this year. Every performer danced with a cultural pride that shone through in every move and every note. From the Elders to the young ones, they all stood and danced together as one in a show of cultural togetherness. It was as if everyone that performed at Boomerang were urging all of their brothers and sisters across the land to rise up as one and show everyone what they are capable of doing.
The festival was filled with not just music and dancing but theatre, comedy, film and visual arts, along with cultural knowledge exchanges and thought provoking conversations. Although the festival had a strong contingent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers and conversations it was a celebration of Indigenous culture from around the world with representatives from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand, Tibet, Canada, Rotuma Island and Solomon Islands.
The workshops that were run during the festival allowed anyone to participate in cultural arts and healing workshops run by the beautiful women from New Zealand. Imagine sitting in a room filled with live calming traditional Mauri music while you are provided with a massage by traditional healers from New Zealand. Other workshops included traditional basket weaving and jewelry making with materials sourced from the traditional countries of the workshop leaders.
My favourite photo from the whole weekend is the one below. It shows the crew from Dhinawan Dreaming flipping in front the crowd with Bluesfest Director Peter Noble watching in amazement. He was the the guy that made this all happen after Boomerang was not able to secure enough funding to run it as a stand alone festival.
The Boomerang festival has already been announced as being a part of Bluesfest again next year. Now its time for the Australian public to stand up and support this important step forward in reconciliation and act curiously towards understanding more about one of the oldest cultures in the world. I can’t think of any better way to learn more about culture through amazing cultural performances only meters away from the greatest festival line up in Australia.
Hope to see you all there.