When respected singer, playwright and artist Aunty June Mills was asked to create a special kids show by Garrmalang Festival Artistic Director, Gary Lang - she jumped at the chance. As a much loved elder in the community with grandkids of her own, Mills loves to tell a good yarn.
"One of my passions in life, and of being an elder is passing on good stories - stories that inspire. For all ages really, but I love children. I love their spontaneity and that they are open to learning," she told NITV.
'Witladla' tells the moral story of an Owl who loses his necklace, and only through working together with his friends is the impossible achieved and his necklace retrieved. Aunty June has created everything from the puppet characters, the music and the set, but with an original twist.
"They are painted traditionally, Larrakia-style and colours, they aren’t going to be purple hair and googly eyes, so I think visually it’s going to be very beautiful in that sense."
"Keeping in mind I’ve never been to a puppet show myself," says Aunty June with a laugh, "it’s going to be quite different, not like any puppet show ever… All the animals in the story I’ve hand made myself - they are painted traditionally, Larrakia-style and colours, they aren’t going to be purple hair and googly eyes, so I think visually it’s going to be very beautiful in that sense. You will learn the names of these animals in our traditional language and you are going to hear about the traditional place names of country around Darwin, from a Larrakia perspective."
Aunty June also does traditional healing work and says that she prefers to help build confidence and strength before healing is necessary. "I like to make our children strong within themselves. Give them knowledge. This is not only for our people, it applies right across the board - making kids feel good about themselves and good about where they are."
"I like to make our children strong within themselves. Give them knowledge. This is not only for our people, it applies right across the board - making kids feel good about themselves and good about where they are."
Gary Lang, taking up the role of Artistic Director for a second year, told NITV that the festival was created as there was no other event celebrating Larrakia culture. "Every other community in the Territory had their own festival - but nothing dealing with Larrakia. Garrmalang means ‘Darwin Area’.
The three day festival is being held at the Darwin Entertainment Centre and will open with a special collection of dances called a Bunngul, continuing an ancient tradition of opening ceremony. Featuring Larrakia’s Kenbi Dancers, Gary Lang NT Dance Company with a more contemporary style and traditional dancers from the remote communities of Milingimbi and Yirrkala, the festival continues in to the night with a performance by the popular group Djuki Mala.
With art stalls, Witladla, a special performance by captivating Yolgnu singer Yirrmal, with full band and the fabulous all-female dance, circus, burlesque and cabaret explosion that is Hot Brown Honey - the weekend has something for everyone. Lang has also included a special panel discussion to acknowledge the 1967 Referendum.
"On Sunday we have the '250 Shades of Black' panel featuring Luke Pearson, Michael Mansell, Josephine Crawshaw and Olga Havnen, having a very important discussion regarding Constitutional Recognition v Treaty."
Lang is excited to showcase the best of Darwin whilst also highlighting the Larrakia culture and beyond. "The festival is getting bigger - it’s really growing into something beautiful."
Garrmalang Festival runs from May 26-28th, for information about the festival, click here.