A month-long fes­ti­val of First Nations cul­ture is tack­ling deeply in­grained stereo­types and show­ing us the is­sues that unite us. By Emma Joyce

Time Out (Sydney) - - THINGS TO DO -

THE AUS­TRALIAN MU­SEUM is launch­ing its first fes­ti­val of Abo­rig­i­nal and Pa­cific cul­tures. Weave will in­clude a pro­gram of par­tic­i­pa­tory events from med­i­ta­tion with Wi­rad­juri cul­tural prac­ti­tion­ers Mi­lan Dhi­iyaan (Lau­rance and Fleur Mag­ick Den­nis) through to watch­ing mas­ter weavers Phyl­lis Stewart and Steve Rus­sell cre­ate a four-me­tre ca­noe hon­our­ing the Indige­nous fish­er­women of Syd­ney Har­bour. Laura McBride, who co-cu­rated the new Gar­ri­gar­rang: Sea Coun­try – the Mu­seum’s first Indige­nous Aus­tralian ex­hi­bi­tion since 1997 – is the force be­hind this new fes­ti­val. “We want to rep­re­sent our­selves,” she says. “We’re work­ing in a build­ing that still holds [the bod­ies of] over 500 of our an­ces­tors. That his­tory needs to be dis­cussed in a way that peo­ple can par­tic­i­pate in the heal­ing.”

‘Weave’ is a metaphor for the way McBride wants peo­ple to en­gage with the his­tory shared in the fes­ti­val. “If we sit to­gether and weave our knowl­edges and ex­pe­ri­ences we can build a bet­ter, shared fu­ture. Also, this is a fes­ti­val of 256 dis­tinct cul­tures (at least) within Aus­tralia, plus the Pa­cific cul­tures, but one cus­tom crosses all of those cul­tures: weav­ing.”

Run­ning through­out March, Weave in­cludes a new ex­hi­bi­tion,

Gadi, that McBride hopes will in­tro­duce the peo­ple of the grasstree – the Gadi­gal peo­ple – and their rich and sig­nif­i­cant his­tory. “Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ma­te­rial, for ex­am­ple a stone flake, shows we were the first as­tronomers, the first axe mak­ers, the first bread mak­ers. Aus­tralia should be shout­ing that from the rooftops.” Guided med­i­ta­tion ses­sions by Mi­lan Dhiliyaan, Wail­wan and Wi­rad­juri prac­ti­tion­ers will in­tro­duce a “very old teach­ing of deep lis­ten­ing” that she says is “learn­ing Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture in an Abo­rig­i­nal way”.

There’s also the world pre­miere of vir­tual re­al­ity film Car­riber­rie, which takes a 360-de­gree cin­e­matic per­spec­tive of dance and song filmed in lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Uluru. Screen­ings of doc­u­men­tary Con­nec­tion to Coun­try, mean­while, high­light a bat­tle the lo­cal peo­ple of the West­ern Aus­tralian Pil­bara are em­broiled in with the min­ing in­dus­try. Ul­ti­mately, says McBride, “I want peo­ple to ap­pre­ci­ate what was lost – and what we will lose. And I want to pro­vide a space for Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple to tell their own sto­ries.”

Hans Ah­wang


Fran­cis Wil­liams of the Nay­gayiw Gigi Dance Troupe

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