A Special Series of Sundays
Some of the biggest names in Indigenous music are making tracks to the remote Aboriginal community of Beswick/Wugularr, located just over 420 clicks south of Darwin on Bagala Country, for the 2022 incarnation of Djarmalak; Concerts on Country.
By Tierney Seccull
Created to celebrate the legacy of Balang T. E. Lewis, and derived from his beloved Walking With Spirits festival, Djarmalak is presented by Djilpin Arts. Celebrating 20 years this August, the community-owned, not-for-profit organisation has garnered great repute for presenting genuine on-Country experiences.
After Djarmalak was paused in 2020 and 2021, its return to the NT’s culture and events calendar is a very welcome one. Djilpin Arts Manager and Lewis’ wife Fleur Parry says Djarmalak sprouted from a project of the same name Balang was working on before his passing in 2018.
“After his passing, it was decided that the waterfall, which was the remote wilderness venue for the [Walking With Spirits] festival, needed some rest time and some cultural respect, so we decided to raise a series of concerts at the cultural centre instead,” she says.
“We did that in 2019 over three weekends and it was a really fantastic result. We weren’t sure about it as everyone was really attached to the falls, as you can imagine, but with so many years of work put into that cultural centre – to build it up into a whole precinct – we really wanted to celebrate that and bring people to it.
“It’s very accessible and has beautiful artworks and accommodation. We’ve got a gorgeous stage there dedicated to Balang, so it’s a super beautiful space.”
Over three huge Sundays in June, July and August, the small community comes alive with music, art, dance and culture. Kicking things off this month is ARIA and NIMA award-winning singer Miiesha, set to cast her soulful glow upon festivalgoers as she performs tracks from her forthcoming EP Mirrors.
In support is one of the NT’s fastest rising stars of the rap world, J-MILLA, the recipient of the 2021 NIMA Archie Roach Foundation Prize amassing a swag of fans and accolades after the release of his debut single ‘Unlock the System’ in 2020.
YolÅu Songmen Djakapurra Munyarrun and Rrawun Maymuru bring the ancient Songlines of their country to the stage, their beautiful performance promising to be an otherworldly experience.
Hosted by the effervescent Constantina Bush, and with dance, art, workshops, food and conversation – plus the opportunity to camp and take a day tour – all three Sundays present a wonderfully immersive cultural experience, with great respect to Djarmalak’s origins.
“We’re still offering small number day tours to the falls with our guides, but it’s a very ‘no-footprint’ approach, but people can go and hear the story and the history,” Parry says.
“In 2019, Walking With Spirits became Djarmalak, which means ‘come together’. It’s very special.
"It’s a really beautiful and welcoming community, and after two years in a remote community under isolation, it’s been very difficult, so this is a chance to come out of that and also to celebrate 20 years of achievement.”
Photos: Paz Tassone