Yellamundie Festival to feature diversity of First Nations storytelling

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Moogahlin Performing Arts, alongside Sydney Festival and Carriageworks, are set to showcase four works from five Indigenous storytellers and two live-panel discussions as part of Yellamundie Festival.

The brand-new developmental performances will be shown on January 22 and 23, in line with COVID-safe practices, and will include:

  • The Lookout, a playwrighting performance by Dalara Williams
  • Waterholes, a dance performance by Shana O’Brien
  • The First Shot, a composition performance by Troy Russell
  • Gumbirrangarroo Dalanngarroo (Longest Time Right Now), a composition performance by Brad Steadman and Mark Ross.

Yellamundie Festival aims to identify and develop new First Nations storytellers before presenting their stories to stage for the first time. The new works have two weeks of development before their presentation at the Sydney festival.

The success of Yellamundie Festival, now in its fifth incarnation, is exemplified by the 10 featured works which have gone on to full production following their exposure through the festival.

The shows depict everything from mystery, healing and new life, to joy and love, culture and personal growth. What holds as a common theme among all the artists is the commitment to preserve Indigenous culture.

Shana O’Brien, dancer and creator of Waterholes, said the strongest story people have to tell is their own.

“When we make art from our hearts, connecting into the land, with our Ancestors walking beside us, that is the most powerful place to create from,” she said.

Butchulla and Kabi Kabi disciplinary artist and producer, Aiden Rowlingson is presenting Capricorn at the Festival, a story of a young couple at the end of their long-term relationship.

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Rowlingson said while he wants to inspire and change minds through his work, he also wants to grow as a producer and continue the work of his Ancestors.

“I’ll know when it’s good storytelling when it lifts the voices of my community. If even one person from the community says, ‘Hey that’s like me’, then I will know it’s good,” he said.

Co-Founder of Moogahlin Performing Arts and Yellamundie Festival Director, Murrawarri and Ngemba woman Lily Shearer, echoed the celebration of Indigenous history.

“How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you come from?” she asked.

“See that tree, we can sing that tree, dance that tree, paint it! AC (After Cook) we can make a film about that tree, write about that tree, make an installation, or physical circus performance about that tree.”

“To tell an Aboriginal story, you need to know who your people are. You should’ve experienced it.”

Shearer said this year’s festival will be the first to showcase dance and composition as well as playwrighting.

“[It’s] great to be around our people, telling our stories, our way.”

The artists and voices of Yellamundie will also be accessible through the panels scheduled throughout the festival.

On January 23, both a ticketed live ‘Meet the Artists’ panel and a free live-streamed Yawarra* (Dramaturgy) International First Nations panel will be on offer. The Yawarra* Panel features renowned First Peoples theatre practitioners from Australia, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Turtle Island (Canada).

Shearer said the Yawarra panel will explore aspects of dramatic composition with regard to Indigenous language pieces “in play, text and performance”.

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Yellamundie Festival is supported by Create NSW, Australia Council for the Arts, City of Sydney, and the Office for the Arts. For more information visit: https://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/events/yellamundie-festival.

By Aaron Bloch

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