A highlight of the YIRRAMBOI Festival, Melbourne’s biennial celebration of First Nations arts and culture, is Barring Yanabul‘s all-day, all-free program. The name of this mini festival within a festival means ‘we all walk the path’ in local Indigenous language. Follow it to 40-plus experiences popping up in Melbourne’s iconic places, lanes and green spaces, including these events not to be missed. Block out 4 May – your dance card is full!
Deborah Cheetham X The Dhungala Children’s Choir
Renowned as an operatic soprano, Yorta Yorta woman Deborah Cheetham has been a multi-faceted diamond of the arts scene for 25-plus years. Also an actor, composer, playwright and educator, she formed a choral performance group for First Nations children in 2009 as well. Deborah Cheetham X The Dhungala Children’s Choir perform on the State Library of Victoria’s steps – a magical experience for the whole family.
Freshies Block Party
Street-art destination Hosier Lane is also going to be a hot spot for street-wear during Barring Yanabul. Designer Jaeden Williams is putting on a fashion parade showcasing his Freshies label, with First Nations models strutting the streetwise catwalk. It’s not just a fashion show though. The Freshies Block Party also has DJ Sky Thomas on the decks and live graffiti going up.
Experience a youth-driven, Blak arts intervention as dis rupt takes over Hamer Hall for a groundbreaking afternoon led by Kate ten Buuren (Taungurung). Be submerged in story, song, dance, immersive installation and performance from the point of view of young First Nations creatives. Responding to the stories of the land on which the hall rests, the Birrarung and its waterways, dis rupt promises a surprising glimpse into the future of Blak creative arts.
Following on from 2017’s stunning Federation Bells ritual performance Circle, Naretha Williams presents her second work in this series, combining the gargantuan Melbourne Town Hall Grand Organ and live electronics to realise her complex progressive compositions. Blak Mass reflects on the impact of colonisation and considers the Grand Organ as a symbol of European domination to create a haunting, avant-garde sound work.
Alice Skye X Ilid
First Nations singer-songwriters from two hemispheres are revisiting their 2018 collaboration created for Taiwan’s indigenous arts festival, Pulima. Wergaia woman Alice Skye plays songs from her debut album, Friends with Feelings. Ilid Kaolo of Taiwan’s Amis First Nations origin unveils rarely heard traditional music of her homeland. Alice Skye X Ilid Kaolo is an unlikely but unforgettable meeting of musical hearts and minds on the Melbourne Town Hall portico.
Winner of the Victorian Indigenous Performing Arts Award for Best New Talent in 2012, Benny Walker loves the bush. Born and raised up Echuca way on the Murray River, he puts that love into his music. So when Benny brings his guitar and bluesy-rootsy songs to the swanky Sofitel hotel for some intimate shows, expect to get relaxed.
First on the Ladder
Polyglot Theatre company is all about putting kids at the centre of things. Like their First on the Ladder art-meets-sport project, made possible by children from Shepparton’s Indigenous Rumbalara Football and Netball Club. Check out their animations and music clips, then make your own contribution to this exhibition of art, video and sound works. Don’t be shy – this all-ages adventure is taking over a shopfront rather than one of those forbidding white-cube galleries.
Jasmin Sheppard has a remarkably mixed heritage: Irish, Chinese, Hungarian Jewish, and the Gulf of Carpentaria’s Tagalaka and Kurtijar peoples. She’s also a Bangarra Dance Theatre performer, and is performing a solo dance piece called Choice Cut. She presents the body of an Indigenous woman and puts it under a butcher’s marker. Some parts are desirable, like the breasts, while others are considered off-cuts to be thrown away, including her mind and spirit. The Blak woman’s body is a metaphor for the way her country has been carved up, with some land desired, some disregarded.
After you’ve checked out the free Barring Yanabul events, make sure you head to dis rupt, Yothu Yindi & The Treaty Project and Blak Mass. Find out about these and other events with our YIRRAMBOI Festival essential experiences guide, and at the YIRRAMBOI Festival website.