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Go For Garrmalang

For almost a decade, Garrmalang Festival has descended on the heart of Larrakia Country to celebrate the richness of First Nations art and culture, deeply inherent to the Northern Territory. This month, Garrmalang returns with an exciting, extended six-day program.

By Kate Conway

Founded by Ben Graetz in 2014 as a passion project, Garrmalang Festival was originally held over a Dry season weekend, and in the years since, has grown into a thriving hub of community and connection.

Dr Wendy Ludwig returns as Creative Director for a second year, and says the extended six-day program was designed to cater to a broader audience, but also to enable organisers to provide an important platform to engage young First Nations people.

With a focus on the topic Young People Tracking - where to next?, the first two days of Garrmalang is dedicated to panel talks and workshops for invited First Nations senior and middle school students to explore the next stage of their lives after school.

“I think it’s really important to provide space and opportunity for young people to start talking about some of the things that are really on their minds at the moment,” Ludwig says.

"To have young people come into Darwin Entertainment Centre and see that this is a place they can feel comfortable to do things that are of interest to them, and that there’s employment opportunities in the arts industry that can make genuine contributions to the economy … That’s the broader kind of thinking that I have in terms of engaging young people in this particular kind of environment.”

Highlighting the potential for a career in the arts, singing workshops for the school students, facilitated by renowned First Nations musicians Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse, culminate in a special choir performance at the Festival Official Gathering and Welcome. These workshops continue the duo’s important work to keep First Nations languages alive, through performing and teaching original songs in the Noongar language.

Fresh from a successful run at Sydney Festival, iconic First Nations actor, writer and comedian Elaine Crombie presents her one-woman show, Janet’s Vagrant Love. Combining stunning vocals with her signature wit, Janet’s Vagrant Love draws on Crombie’s personal experiences to deliver a performance Crombie is hopeful audiences can relate to.

“I’m excited to bring Janet’s Vagrant Love to Darwin and have the mob come and see it. Especially the young ones, so they can hopefully see themselves in me, on stage, yarning, telling stories, singing, being light,” she says.

Headlining Friday night’s festivities is seven-piece Yolŋu funk and reggae group The Andrew Gurruwiwi Band. Hailing from Arnhem Land, and led by the band’s namesake Yolŋu Elder, their distinctive sound creates an electric, high-energy atmosphere. The band’s debut single Gatjumak means ‘go for it’. Frontman Andrew Gurruwiwi says, while the upbeat song is inspired by sport and giving your all on the footy field, it’s applicable to dancing too.

“Gatjumak can mean everything. Show me what you got, show me your style of dance. Just do it! Get up and dance,” he says.

The bumper program also includes art exhibition Mamulubma, featuring selected works from the Batchelor Institute Art Collection that celebrates fresh and saltwater mermaids. NT Dance Company Artistic Director and Larrakia man Gary Lang presents a departure from his signature medium of dance, with a spoken word performance in The Gary Lang Story.

With such a jam-packed program, you might be concerned about timetable clashes. But the Festival has been thoughtfully planned with the audience in mind. Performances are scheduled to enable movement throughout the venue with ease, and ticket packages are available to encourage attendees to make the most of Garrmalang.

“Coupled together with the creative expression and celebration of beautiful, successful endeavours, the Festival provides opportunities in terms of the panel discussions for some serious conversations to happen. But it’s also an opportunity to inform and grow the understandings and insights of non-First Nations people about the breadth and depth of First Nations life,” says Ludwig.

“It’s important for people’s souls to see positive and uplifting, creative, artistic expression. In light of all the things that are happening in our lives at the moment, it’s a good balance for people.”

Head along to DEC and embrace the opportunity to be fully immersed in this thoughtfully curated dose of arts and culture. Get your Garrmalang on.


Garrmalang Festival
WHEN WED 24 – SUN 28 MAY
AT DARWIN ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE
COST FREE-$40
INFO yourcentre.com.au


2023 Program

Garrmalang Festival offers a melting pot of First Nations art, culture, music and storytelling, the 2023 extended program running over a huge six days for the first time in Festival history. Events are free unless otherwise noted, and registration may be required. Don’t miss the chance to soak up this important and immersive cultural Festival.


Education Program

In a Festival first, the 2023 Garrmalang Festival offers an education program, which includes a youth day for First Nations students from local middle and senior schools. The day includes a panel discussion moderated by Northern Territory Young Australian of the Year 2023, Jahdai Vigona, and workshops facilitated by musicians Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse. These Education Program initiatives are designed to explore pathways and opportunities following school years.

WHEN TUE 23 & WED 24 MAY


Public Program

Mamulubma | Mermaids
Mamulubma exhibits selected works in various mediums from the Batchelor Institute Art Collection, that celebrate the mystery and allure of mermaids. Mermaids are female saltwater and freshwater spirits that merge sites and stories of significance in First Nations cultures.

WHEN WED 24 – SUN 28 MAY
AT DEC GALLERY


The Gary Lang Story
Founder and Artistic Director of NT Dance Company, Gary Lang, presents an honest, fun and raw hour of storytelling that opens a door to the past. Lang regales his memories with a dash of controversy, for a unique and entertaining insight into the renowned Larrakia man.

WHEN WED 24 MAY | 7PM THU 25 MAY | 10AM & 7PM
AT STUDIO THEATRE
COST $20-$25


Luglug & Damara-lidji | Official Gathering & Welcome
Festivities officially kick off with a traditional smoking ceremony and dance by local Larrakia community members. Proceedings are followed by a special local youth choir performance, which is developed during Education Program workshops with multi-award-winning duo Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse.

WHEN FRI 26 MAY | 5.30PM


Janet’s Vagrant Love
Written and performed by renowned First Nations actor Elaine Crombie, Janet’s Vagrant Love presents hard truths of raising young Blak men as a single mum, delivered in a commanding performance with humour and heartfelt song.

WHEN FRI 26 MAY | 6.45PM
AT STUDIO THEATRE
COST $20-$40


Andrew Gurruwiwi Band Special Guest Paul Ah Chee
High-energy, seven-piece funk and reggae group, the Andrew Gurruwiwi Band, takes to the stage for an explosive performance, featuring debut single ‘Gatjumak (Go For It)’. This exciting concert is supported by special guest Paul Ah Chee, and emceed by Eddie Kitching.

WHEN FRI 26 MAY | 8.15PM
AT THE PLAYHOUSE
COST $20-$40


Mayima | Eat and Drink
Delight your tastebuds with a range of tasty treats throughout the Festival.

WHEN FRI 26 – SUN 28 MAY


Darriba Narri Minanggurrgwa Yabarrag | Elders’ Morning Tea
Come together to celebrate our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders. This special event brings the community together to honour those who have passed on their knowledge, paved the way, and who continue to inspire. Enjoy music by Aunty June Mills with tea, coffee and delicious treats provided.

WHEN SAT 27 | 9-11AM
AT BALCONY BAR


Numanggwa Yili Rriyung | Blak Meeting Place (Marketplace)
From arts and crafts to services, Blak Meeting Place provides a welcoming space to browse the rich diversity of artworks and products on offer from First Nations artists and businesses. Head along to support ethical purchasing, and discover groups providing essential services to our First Nations communities.

WHEN SAT 27 MAY | 9AM-2PM


Daranigi Gulwa | Our Songs
Kick back with a drink and something to eat, and treat your ears to the Garrmalang soundtrack featuring some of Darwin’s finest First Nations musicians.

Prayer Corby, Damien Armstrong, Robert Mills Collective
WHEN
SAT 27 MAY | 11AM-8PM
AT FORECOURT

Darryl Barba & Eddie Kitching
WHEN
SUN 28 MAY | 12-6PM
AT BALCONY BAR


Numanggwa-Gum | Blak Talk The Voice – Let’s Talk About the Question
Later this year, eligible Australians will vote in a referendum on whether or not to give First Nations Australians a Voice to the Australian Parliament and the Government. What does this mean for you? What will you do? In this panel discussion, moderator Ursula Raymond and expert panellists invite you to join them to talk about The Voice.

WHEN SAT 27 MAY | 12PM
AT THE PLAYHOUSE


Gina Williams & Guy Ghouse
Award-winning duo Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse use music to highlight one of the most beautiful and rare languages, the Noongar language of the southern corner of Western Australia. Don’t miss this stunning performance merging the ancient language with contemporary music, vocals and poignant stories.

WHEN SAT 27 MAY | 6PM
AT STUDIO THEATRE
COST $20-$30


An Evening with Ursula Yovich Special Guest Chris Tamwoy
Experience the soulful sounds of Ursula Yovich with a live band, in a captivating evening of song. Joined by bassist Adam Ventura of Midnight Oil, take a journey through the universal language of song inspired by Ursula’s roots in Arnhem Land. This special evening is supported by special guest and guitar virtuoso Chris Tamwoy, and emceed by Ursula Raymond.

WHEN SAT 27 MAY | 8PM
AT THE PLAYHOUSE
COST $20-$40


Guligi Numanggwa | Big Blak Dot Comedy Spectacular – Kevin Kropinyeri Goes Talkabout & Dora Smith
Kevin Kropinyeri returns to Garrmalang Festival with an all new show featuring some Blakfulla yarns about his past. Emceed by Deadly Darwin’s Richie Fejo, and joined by Deadly Funny Grand Finalist and emerging talent Dora Smith, Kropinyeri delivers his unpredictable and cheeky, yet relatable, sense of humour.

WHEN SUN 28 MAY | 5PM
AT STUDIO THEATRE
COST $20-$35


#GARRMALANG FESTIVAL


Thumbnail & Header: Official Welcome 2022 Garrmalang Festival. Photo: Benjamin Warlngundu Bayliss
Inset: Image: Andrew Gurruwiwi Band

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