The Karijini National Park, located 1400kms north of Perth on Banjima country in the Pilbara of Western Australia, had a massive influx of tourists and locals last week for a unique event that celebrated Aboriginal culture, music and art, and reconciliation.
The seventh Karijini Experience drew people from as far away as Queensland, with a crowd estimated at over 1000 people who participated in over fifty activities, including corroborees and traditional weapon making. Attendees were also able to engage with local Banjima elders.
For six days, tourists and locals immersed themselves in the landscape, exploring deep gorges and participating in creative workshops.
The Nintirri Centre's chief executive officer, James Jarvis, said the event saw a 30 per cent increase in visitors on last year’s total attendance and all centre staff and volunteers were proud to have successfully delivered another Karijini Experience.
"In 2019, we delivered 55 events over 6 days, 60% were free and family focused and over 50% of all content providers were Aboriginal, representing over 10 Aboriginal language groups," he said.
“Western Australia’s Minister for Tourism, Paul Papalia said the Karijini Experience was WA’s premier cultural event, and a a great reward for the effort that the Nintirri Centre has undertaken to build partnerships with Aboriginal people and language groups, in particular, the Banjima people on whose traditional lands we hold the event."
The WA symphony orchestra accompanied by Aboriginal opera singer Deborah Cheetham in the Kalaminda Gorge was a highlight for Minister of Tourism, Paul Papalia.
“This is a wonderful exposure to this part of the world. I’ve met the Banjima people before and it's great to see them on country welcoming other people to country and sharing their culture with them," he said.
Despite having native title over their country, the Banjima Elders don't run the National Park, but Elder, Maitland Parker says that is something they wish to change.
"That now is a priority for us, we’re pushing very hard with the government to either have a partnership or we take control of our national park,” Mr Parker said.
Minister for Environment Stephen Dawson met with Mr Parker last week and said it was a positive conversation about the future of Karijini National Park.
“Certainly, Traditional Owners should be part of the joint management of the park," he said.
Yindjibarndi artists were honoured and grateful to the Banjima Nation for allowing them to display their RED AIR inflatable installation artwork at the event. Artist Kaye Warrie said it was a lot bigger than she expected.
“The painting I did, is about the Fortescue rock holes and the clay pans you see in the Ngurra (country) after the rain. The colours I did is what I see in the country, the birds, trees, plants and hills. I think that the Karijini Experience is good, We love coming here and we thank the Banjima for having us here to display our designs on the inflatables."
Award-winning Aboriginal filmmakers Tyson Mowarin and Curtis Taylor displayed their films at the Karijini Open air cinema.
“We curated the first Karijini film night as part of the festival, we had six films screen last night and there was a huge turnout. I think having the Karijini Experience on Banjima country is a great initiative it’s still really only a new festival, its less than 10 years old and I think most of us who come for the first time, we always come back," Mr Mowarin said.
Mr Mowarin also took time to participate in the Birds of Prey workshop and stood in awe as a Wedgetail Eagle perched on his arm.
“Even though she was only 7 months old, it was deadly holding this Wanbangu (Wedgetail Eagle). So big, powerful and beautiful to be so close to Australia’s largest bird of prey.
Pilbara temperatures were cooler inland and the flies were friendly due to the late rains. Many Yoga enthusiasts who braved the early morning chill to take part in Yoga in the Fortescue Falls gorge said it was worth it.
“The Yoga was good, a great start to the day even though I look like an Eskimo. I enjoyed the cold momentarily,” said Sarah Green, a guest and Yoga instructor.