Clancestry: A Celebration of Country acknowledged in Queensland Reconciliation Awards

The Chooky Dancers  Photo:  Mick Richards
The Chooky Dancers
Photo: Mick Richards

Aussie Theatre’s Dione Joseph spoke with Deborah Murphy, producer of Clancestry: A Celebration of Country which was recently recognised  in the Queensland Reconciliation Awards.

Clancestry: A Celebration of Country, a showcase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture, was acknowledged in the Queensland Reconciliation Awards which were announced at the Brisbane City Hall on 11 July.  producer of the inaugural event which was held from  26 Feb – 3 March 2013.

Deborah Murphy appreciates the recognition of the inaugural event, which was held from the 26 Feb-3 March 2013, but says that the real reward was the journey undertaken by all involved and the amazing amount of good will and support they received from across Australia.

“This was a concept event that was presented by Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and Tourism and Events Queensland in partnership with local Aboriginal organization Nguin Warrup. We were here together to celebrate the pride all Australians should have in the wealth and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures”, says Murphy

Held on the Ancestral Homelands of Traditional Owners for the South Brisbane region, community and cultural consultation was key to planning the event. Lunches with Elders from different groups initiated the process last August, with planning beginning in earnest in October.

“The value of local knowledge and lived experience cannot be overstated. It was absolutely essential that we heard and listened to the voices of the community because this was an event which was dedicated to celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures”, explains Murphy

QPAC also invited a number of renowned Indigenous artists and performers from across Australia, including guest curator Rhoda Roberts, to participate, contribute and shape the program.

For Murphy, “Having Rhoda on board was an absolutely invaluable experience, her knowledge and guidance was inspirational and we did feel incredibly privileged to have such an amazing amount of talent and good will.”

The event culminated in a free weekend festival which showcased performances from local cultural groups, as well as emerging, and nationally significant artists. However the weather threatened the celebration. Murphy remembers standing watching the torrential rain that began falling on the Friday afternoon, watching the unrelenting forces of nature pelt down upon the brightly coloured marquees:

“I stood there just saying over and over in my head, please let it stop, please let it stop; and an Aunty came over to me and when she found out why I was fretting she laughed and said, ‘Our people used to dance in the rain, don’t you worry’ and then a few minutes later the rain stopped! You had this spectacular feast for the eyes. The seating bank around the sand circle was glistening, the sky was clear and the summer night was the perfect backdrop for the Festival.”

Despite occasional outpourings from the heavens the festival still managed to attract over 10,600 visitors over the weekend, a testament to the enormous amount of hard work and dedication of all involved.

“Fred Leonie, a renowned music producer and performer said to me, ‘Now is the time for the coming together’ and he was right. It was such an honour to be part of this event”, Murphy remembers with pleasure.

The event is the foundation of ongoing commitment to the dynamic and evolving Indigenous cultures in Queensland and the importance of partnerships in building capacity within communities.The next Clancestry is expected to take place in February 2014.

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