Highlights of Kalgoorlie-Boulder NAIDOC Celebrations 2016
For the first time in a number of years, Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s NAIDOC Festival celebrating the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to our country coincided with the national celebrations, between 3-10 July, 2016. Country Arts WA’s Focus Region Manager, Barb Howard supported and collaborated with media organisation Tjuma Pulka’s Creative Producer, Gary Cooper, Manager, Debbie Carmody and her team through the process to create an innovative arts and culture program for this year’s festival that encouraged, showcased and honoured the region’s young talent. On a cold and wet Monday morning in July, the stage at the Goldfields Arts Centre was set ready for the large audience getting seated in eager anticipation of the opening performance given by a group of inspiring young people from the region.
The performance, a stunning contemporary dance piece inspired by an ancient dance only ever performed for corrobboree in the central desert of Australia was developed by Gary Cooper under the guidance of Laverton elders Janice Smith and Bruce Scott. Gary engaged internationally renowned choreographer Michael Leslie to work with children from Laverton and Kalgoorlie-Boulder over a three week period to create Gulliah Tjookorr or the Emu Dreaming dance, a project partially funded by Country Arts WA through the Regional Arts Fund. For the 30 young people involved, it was the first time they had performed on a professional stage and in front of audience of over 300 people who were left mesmerised by the thoughtful crafting of the dance’s message – the crucial role of a father growing up healthy children using the father Emu’s relationship with his chicks as a metaphor. Stunning backdrop imagery provided by aspiring documentary maker, Ashley Gibb supported the dance, which was exquisite in its simplicity and sophistication. Following the performance, the audience was invited to enjoy the art exhibition Songlines: The Living Narrative of our Nation in the Goldfields Arts Centre gallery. This was a showcase fantastic local First Nations art and the audience also enjoyed tastings of delicious native foods prepared by Fevor’s chef Paul ‘Yoda’ Iskov and served by young First Nations people from the local high school.
The Goldfields Arts Centre came to life again on Tuesday morning with makers market stallholders presenting a vast array of high quality arts and crafts in preparation for a visit from Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove. The excitement was palpable when the work of 15 year old talented emerging artist, Winston Stokes Junior caught the attention of the dignitary as he stopped to speak to each stallholder. Winston was equally impressed with the Governor General and he made an impromptu presentation of a Wardi – a hitting stick used in battle and ceremony that he had crafted out of local timber to the former senior Australian Army Officer. The young artist’s beautiful artefact is now on display in the study of Government House in Canberra. Winston Stokes Junior is focused on honing his artistic talent while he studies at Wongutha Christian Parent Directed School in Esperance.
The closing ceremony of NAIDOC 2016 in Goldfields Arts Centre in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, was a concert headlined by one of our most respected, beloved and admired singer/songwriters, Archie Roach. Local act Picture Gardens played first on the bill and quickly got the audience energised. Picture Gardens was followed by a group of hip hop artists from Leonora who are using music to tackle a range of social issues facing their northern Goldfields community. Local identity and aspiring Federal senator Kado Muir and Hip Hop artist KJ worked tirelessly with the young people over many months to get them stage ready to deliver an energised performance drawn from a dreamtime story about chasing away our ‘monsters’. Kado lead with a beautiful song he sang in language and handed over to Pilbara based First Nations rapper KJ who upped the tempo. KJ was supported by four young Leonora rappers who are no strangers to fame, appearing on WAM’s Sounds of the Goldfields album released earlier in the year. A stunning monster puppet was manoeuvred around the stage by four young Leonora women conveying the message, ‘It is your choice – you can be free from the issues the plague you’. A humorous performance by Norseman comedic talent and internationally acclaimed didgeridoo player James Schultz lead into a stunning performance by Archie Roach powerfully supported by Nancy Bates and Craig Pilkington. The trio all played guitar and sang songs of inspiration to give the lively audience an emotionally charged experience, including a taste of what’s to come later in the year when Roach releases his upcoming album, Let Love Rule. Roach closed the evening to a standing ovation and completed the week-long celebrations of exceptional First Nations talent from both around Australia and the Goldfields-Esperance region on a high and wanting more.