The Melbourne Fringe Festival is currently in full swing and this year’s program features a ton of great emerging and established Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander artistic talent.
From fabulous drag and cabaret to an end of world apocalyptic party and blackfullas in space, the festival has been showcasing a diversity in medium, ideas and approaches.
Gunai/Kurnai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta writer Nayuka Gorrie in partnership with the Koorie Heritage Trust produced one of the bigger events at the festival. Drawing on her ideas around the idea of colonialism as the apocalypse, Apocalypse in Blak aims to encourage a new way of looking at the direction of society and where we may be headed.
“I am obsessed with the apocalypse and over the last few years, have come to see colonisation as apocalyptic. I am not the first black person or Indigenous person to make this connection either. The crew behind Sovereign Apocalypse (a zine that ran a few editions) and First Nations people in Turtle Island,” Gorrie told NITV.
In the process of creating the event, Gorrie wanted to explore survival of culture and also celebrate black talent.
"Ultimately I wanted to encourage people think about colonisation and our survival through a particular lens while also celebrating the incredible black talent Naarm (Melbourne) hosts. I wanted to centre Indigeneity and blackness. I also wanted people to have a good time and struggle to with the good times.”
"I wanted to centre Indigeneity and blackness. I also wanted people to have a good time and struggle to with the good times.”
Artists that featured in Nayuka's apocalyptic party were asked to respond to the concept through their various mediums. These include: Paul Gorrie, a Gunai/Kurnai DJ; Sky Thomas, SojuGang - Yorta Yorta and Gunai DJ; Alice Skye, a Wergaia singer; Hannah Presley; Claire Colman, who wrote Terra Nullius; Neil Morris, a Yorta Yorta experimental sound maker and poet; and Carly Shepphard a black cross-disciplinary performance artist all responded to the apocalypse in their own way.
"Alice performed songs of loss, Neil created sounds that were dystopian and poetry that was full of quiet rage and Carly danced of struggle.”
Gorrie hopes audience members will walk away from the event with new ideas about loss and struggle.
“I wanted to warn the audience that the world as we know it is changing, black people survived an apocalypse here and we need to be considering how we are going to survive the next one.”
Also on the program is Indigenous drag acts Miss Ellaneous & Marzi Panne, who hosted an inclusive night of dancing, drag and cabaret revue, as well as the unique mix of talent that make up the Cope Street Collective presented a space adventure One of the Good Ones in which, handsome space warrior Barry is caught driving a spaceship without a license and thrown into space jail!, leading to an outerspace blackfulla rescue mission.
Two shows that are the product of a new Artist Development program, partnering up with ILBIJERRI Theatre Company and The Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development, the festival helped bring to life the visions of Wiradjuri man Joel Bray, and Taungurung woman, Kate ten Buuren who brought together five artists from different artistic mediums.
Bray’s performance Biladurang, described as ‘tender, funny and dark’, was held in a hotel room in Melbourne to explore the idea of ‘no-where’ and the ability to pause and reflect. Along with his audience, the artist mused on life questions about purpose, identity and relationships through dance-theatre, echoing the platypus (Biladurang) story from Wiradjuri lore.
Ten Buuren’s curation piece Dis Place features a collective of emerging First Nations artists, who all respond to displacement as a result of colonisation and its ongoing repercussions. The future-focused act is performed through a mix of mediums in a temporary space.
Also coming up in the program is the photographic series - My Mirring, where visual artist Hayley Millar-Baker explores her deep connection to land and highlights the contemporary Indigenous experience of Country.
The Melbourne Fringe Festival is on now until the 1st October, for the full program head here