Culture and heritage

Yirramboi: First Nations festival on tour

People dancing on a stage with long orange and white streamers as a backdrop.

Following its enormous success last year, the Yirramboi First Nations Arts Festival is going on tour in February to exhibit its work at the prestigious Australian Performing Arts Market in Brisbane.

Presented by the City of Melbourne to showcase the diverse and unique talents of First Nations people, Yirramboi celebrates more than 60,000 years of continuous cultural practice.

Creative Director Jacob Boehme said the 10-day festival touched more than half a million Melburnians in 2017, activating laneways, art spaces and public places.

‘Yirramboi Festival is testament to what we can achieve as First Nations people with significant investment from a major city,’ Jacob said.

‘This was my first time as Creative Director of a festival and, together with our Elders Council and the City of Melbourne, we embraced complexity, learned big lessons in trust and risk, and challenged the limits and expectations of what an Indigenous arts festival can be or do.’

To capitalise on the festival’s positive energy, a range of artistic programs and opportunities are scheduled for the next 18 months in the lead up to Yirramboi 2019.

Key plans include continuing to present the festival’s unique approach and learnings on the world stage, and supporting more First Nations artists to become market-ready through the KIN program.

The new yarning circle Dhumba Winy will also be held at selected performances across the country, and the Blak Critics program will be expanded to deliver more arts reviews from young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers.

Also underway is The History Salon, a monthly series of public lectures with Elders of Indigenous arts, set to serve as a living encyclopaedia of blak arts in Australia.

‘Yirramboi Festival is testament to what we can achieve as First Nations people with significant investment from a major city.’

‘I can only go by the words and thoughts of our community and of my peers to give an idea of the impact Yirramboi 2017 had on Melbourne, the Indigenous arts sector and broader community,’ Jacob said.

‘Words like “paradigm shift”, “deep and rich cultural immersion”, and “a reboot in people’s thinking about how we program and view Indigenous work” were among the feedback we received.’

With the positivity and momentum generated at the festival, Jacob has his mind set on a bright future.

‘I’d like to see Yirramboi become a vehicle for international First Nations collaboration, making Melbourne the destination for First Nations exchange and contemporary arts.’

Festival fast facts

  • 10 days
  • 100 events
  • 260 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and international First Nations artists
  • 25,478 attendees
  • 73% of audiences learnt about First Nations contemporary art, peoples and cultures
  • 81% of participants felt proud of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures
  • 93% of artists and 100% of partners felt Yirramboi had improved people’s understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures

For more information, visit Yirramboi.

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