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DAMARA-LIDJI | Welcome to Garrmalang

Garrmalang Festival returns to Darwin Entertainment Centre in the heart of Larrakia Country, offering a vibrant four-day program rich with the First Nations art, culture and tradition that is so deeply woven into the fabric of the Top End.

By Tierney Seccull

A DECADE SINCE its inception in 2014, with nine iterations under its belt, Garrmalang has blossomed over the years to become the highly anticipated, culture-rich event it is today.

Darwin's first ever Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander major multi-arts festival is traditionally held in May to mark the beginning of the Dry season in Garrmalang, the traditional name of the Darwin CBD for the Larrakia.

Ben Graetz, who created the Festival as a passion project all those years ago, returns to the helm as Creative Director and says he’s proud to see the Festival continue to thrive.

“I just think it’s a true testament to how people really love it … I think there’s a real need for it. Back in 2014, I did identify that we didn’t have a major First Nations arts and cultural festival that is multi-arts, and it was about recognising there is so much incredible First Nations arts and culture here, and to be able to put that on the map I think has been really special,” he says.

“For people to nationally recognise what it is, as well as put the Top End on the map, it’s particularly important that we showcase all of our incredible artists and our culture.”

The program bursts at the seams with a varied mix of opportunities to engage with local First Nations culture, as well as some special visitors. We see the return of beloved favourites including the Official Gathering & Welcome, Elder’s Morning Tea, the thought-provoking Blak Talk series, Big Blak Dot Comedy Spectacular this year hosted by Steven Oliver in collaboration with Deadly Darwin, and a marketplace.

Exciting additions to this year’s program include an incredibly powerful and moving work from Gary Lang and the NT Dance Company, and a festival club curated by Larrakia Diva Mikayla Lee alongside BENNYGOLD and Kuya James – if you recognise these names, you know you’re in for a good time.

There’s also an exciting collaboration between Electric Fields and our very own Darwin Symphony Orchestra (DSO). The award-winning electronic music duo has been collaborating with orchestras across the country, and now it’s Darwin’s turn.

“I’m very excited about Electric Fields and the DSO, because I’ve tried to get to that show [across Australia] and haven’t been able to. I’m very happy that we’ve been able to program it in Darwin, I’m such a huge fan of their work,” Graetz says.

“I get blown away just when they’re singing, let alone when there’s a 30-piece orchestra, six singers on stage, incredible lighting and sound. It’s just going to be incredible.”

Electric Fields are just as happy to be here.

“We are so excited to be back for Garrmalang. Larrakia Country has always had a big place in our heart. The open spaces are so beautiful, the people are warm and always gift us a wonderful experience. Performing with the DSO is going to sound stunning, and we can't wait!”

The Blak Talk series allows time and space to discuss and reflect upon the experiences and challenges that are consistently faced by First Nations people. Mililma May of Uprising of the People features on the Blak Talk presentation and says opportunities to continue these conversations are important.

“First Nations communities hold all of the knowledge that can change and revolutionise the way Darwin, the Northern Territory, and Australia runs … We must centre First Law and Knowledges so that we can create a world of gentleness, love, and intellect,” she says.

“Garrmalang is one of the brilliant vessels that will carry us across the rocky waters of today’s climate. We get to come together, dance together, and learn together the way our old people have done for millennia.”

Graetz says, if there’s something you can expect to take away from this year’s Garrmalang Festival, it’s good vibes and a smile .

“We’re at a time where I think there needs to be a lot of joy and a lot of celebration. A lot of our events this year are really focused on coming together and having a joyous time … The program is about empowering community and really about celebrating, so we want people to walk away feeling inspired and joyous!”

Garrmalang Festival

Click here to see the full program on the Darwin Entertainment Centre website.

Header photo: Benjamin Warlngundu Ellis
Thumb & inset: Leicolhn McKellar


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