A vigil will be held on January 25th as part of the Sydney Festival, the city’s annual celebration of arts, culture, and performance, as a means to encourage contemplation and a wider conversation about the repercussions of the arrival of the First Fleet.
While Indigenous artists have always played a prominent role in the Sydney Festival, its director, Noonuccal Nuugi-man Wesley Enoch, believes the 2019 event will be particularly powerful.
“We’re inviting the people of Sydney, and those visiting, to reflect on what it would have been the day before the arrival of the First Fleet,” he said.
As part of the vigil, people will gather for the lighting of a fire, and to hear firsthand from Indigenous Elders about their experiences.
“We have no rituals to encourage people to think about building compassion for what Aboriginal people are feeling about that particular experience.”
Mr Enoch told NITV News he has been surprised by the buzz the event has already attracted.
“The more I talk about it, the more people are interested in it. I thought it would only be a thousand people, but it might be much bigger,” he said.
The respected artist believes Australians are ready for a more nuanced conversation about the past.
“As a nation, the whole change the date conversation around Australia Day, we've hit an impasse, and I think that's because we don't really know what the 26th of January really means to us,” he said.
“My feeling is that the 25th of January comes with no baggage. It's not a protest, it's not politically charged, it's an invitation to sit around a fire and just imagine what Indigenous Australians are going through now, and what they went through then.”
During January, a 28-metre wide sculpture by Bangarra set designer Jacob Nash with the declaration ‘ALWAYS’ will be installed for all Sydneysiders to see.
“I don’t what to dictate what the impact will be, I’m not here to socially engineer things, I’m just saying, this is an invitation to have a conversation,” Mr Enoch said.
“January is a time of New Year’s resolutions, and if this can be a cultural resolution, perhaps it will be something people will think about for the year, or even for the rest of their lives.”