• Miiesha is headlining the 1770 Cultural Connections Festival this long weekend. (Supplied. )Source: Supplied.
The award-winning Anangu & Torres Strait Islander artist is taking the stage alongside acts including festival favourites OKA, CKNU, Mau Power and Warrior Descendants.
Emily Nicol

2 Oct 2021 - 8:23 PM  UPDATED 2 Oct 2021 - 8:25 PM

Miiesha will headline the Cultural Connections Immersion Festival taking place this long weekend in the small coastal town of Seventeen Seventy in Queensland.

The award-winning Anangu/Torres Strait Islander artist will share the stage with acts including festival favourites OKA, CKNU, Mau Power and Warrior Descendants.

Held on Gooreng Gooreng country, the free festival has returned after its inaugural event in 2020, to host a line up of speakers, arts and craft workshops, music and cultural performances, and lessons in biodiversity and storytelling.

The aim is reconciliation through the celebration of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander culture. This year's theme is Voice, Truth, Treaty.

Connecting through music

Dhoebaw man of the Guda Malullgal nations in Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait) and hip hop artist Mau Power, spoke to NITV after taking the stage for his first of two performances for the festival, saying he was honoured to represent culture and share stories to facilitate understanding.

"It's an honour, especially to perform my song Stand Up. It was written for the Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky documentary, and it's ironic," he said.

"I'm standing in a town called 1770, which has been named after a celebrated date of Lieutenant Cook landing here.

"And to be singing a song called Freedom, also Koki, and Stand Up and everybody's getting into it. And I mean everybody, from all walks of life."

As a first-time visitor to the town, Mau Power said that he was happy to see some of his relatives that he didn't realise had moved there, and also connected with the local Gooreng Gooreng mob.

Through talking about the culture of the town he learned that they had been in a long fight to have ownership and culture celebrated as it has been through this festival.

"It's been a hard fight from the people, and the people are very resilient and very proactive," he said.

"They're not quiet, you know, if they believe that there's been injustice, you best believe that they're going to say it. But they don't just talk about it.

"They do something about it. And that's what I really admire about the people here."

The crowd in attendance for the first day was a diverse mix of young and old, Non-Indigenous and First Nations families who had all enjoyed being able to gather to watch live music, especially during the current pandemic climate, Mau Power said.

"Everybody just loved the atmosphere. They loved the music. People were crying and, you know, really connecting with the messages, from the speeches right through to the performances."

Having not been on a stage recently due to Covid, the hip hop artist said that the experience reminded him why he performs and the power of storytelling. 

"It reinvigorated the focus of knowing that, even as an artist, my work is not done," he said.

(The Gooreng Gooreng people) are continuing the fight, generation after generation. And (as artists) we're the conduits of the story through a creative art form. So there is still the need to continue the work."

'We were always here'

The town (1770) gets its name from the landing spot of Lt James Cook on the 24th May 1770.

For almost three decades, every May, the town has prided itself by hosting a re-enactment of the landing of Cook onshore and his fleet's first encounter with the local Gooreng Gooreng people.

"To mainstream society, the idea of the festival is to celebrate Cook and the coming of Europeans. But for our people, we are there to show that we were always here," said Gooreng Gooreng woman Norelle Watson.

"It’s very much about keeping culture alive and giving a strong sense of identity — cultural identity — to our children." 

In a statement, the Gidarjil Development Corporation, which is producing the Cultural Connections festival, said it was about shaping the identity of the town. 

"There are mixed feelings about the location and instead of celebrating the arrival, we are celebrating First Nations culture, and providing a platform for education on how colonisation and the almost annihilation of the oldest culture and practices in the world has affected the First Nations people," it read. 

"We’ve owned our past - we can own our future together."

The festival continues tomorrow Sunday 3rd October. You can catch up on today's performances again on NITV Facebook and tune in tomorrow as it streams live from 9-5pm.