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Djarmalak, a 20 Year Legacy

This month, the third and final concert in Djarmalak’s 2022 Sunday Series lights up the remote Indigenous community of Beswick/Wugularr, on Bagala land.

By Kate Conway

Derived from founder Balang T. Lewis’ beloved Walking with Spirits Festival, August marks a milestone 20th year for the cultural celebration, dedicated to amplifying voices and traditions, with some very special satellite events in store to honour the late visionary.

The night before the main event, Djilpin Arts in collaboration with Katherine Regional Arts presents a two-hour visual tribute to Balang T. Lewis, featuring a back catalogue of the actor and musician’s works screening at Katherine Cinema.

“It’s films that people wouldn’t have seen before, none of the big blockbusters,” says Djilpin Arts Executive Officer, and Lewis’ wife, Fleur Parry.

“All of the short films are from the archives, things that would have got a showing at film festivals but aren’t really publicly available. So people can soak up the legacy of our director and then head out to Beswick.”

Slated for release in conjunction with the festival is an exciting digital re-release of Balang’s 2007 album, Songs From Walking with Spirits, featuring four other songmen and Ross Hannaford from Daddy Cool.

On the line-up for Sunday’s concert is lyrical songstress and proud Anindilyakwa woman Emily Wurramara. It’s been a big year for the AIR award-winning, ARIA-nominated artist, with a new album in the works. Not to mention she’s supporting Jack Johnson on the Australian leg of his upcoming tour.

Also featuring is Hand to Earth, a cross-cultural collaboration featuring Yolŋu Songman Daniel Wilfred, Korean vocalist Sunny Kim, yidaki player David Yipininy Wilfred, and wind players Peter Knight and Aviva Endean. Improvisational in style and deeply inspired by the land, the outfit effortlessly traverses contemporary and ancient musical traditions.

Hot on the heels of a European tour and mini residency in Berlin, Endean says the band is looking forward to how the Beswick location will influence their sound.

“One of the really nice things about playing improvised music is it has the space for you to be responding to where you are, who you are with, and what is going on. That is one of the things that is really exciting about being on tour and being in new places,” she says.

Parry explains both acts are a perfect fit for the festival, with local ties to the area.

“It is such a beautiful link to have Hand to Earth performing, because Daniel Wilfred did all the ceremony for Balang, he is really close family, and Emily has connections with Numbulwar community, which is connected to Beswick family, so there is a really nice family link going on,” she says.

With an art-filled museum, cultural tours and workshops, a visit to Bagala Country is more than a music concert, it is an immersive, engaging experience. The well-rounded event presents the opportunity to gain priceless insight.

“When the community invites people in to share culture, it’s not about just a song, or a dance or a piece of art – it is about trying to reweave the whole tapestry of that cultural knowledge.”

Djarmalak Festival

Thumbanil & inset: Balang T. Lewis
Header: Constantina Bush Photo: Paz Tassone

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