It is my perpetual privilege to acknowledge the beautiful land of the Kaurna people. I am in awe of and hold the utmost respect for the relationships, beliefs and customs that have been practised in this country since time immemorial. I pay my respects to the Elders, past and present who preserved culture and paved the path. I acknowledge the ongoing and lived connection that First Nations people have to country and to culture. I extend this acknowledgement and respect to all First Nations people from all language groups.
When I was but a mere child I was told that Aboriginal history was around 20,000 years old… I had my suspicions even then. 20 years later and the mainstream scientific viewpoint is 65,000 years of unbroken history! To be honest, I’m still dubious they’re short-changing us, but if we were to take that as true then that many years holds literally thousands of generations of history and wisdom. That means Aboriginal people were passing down knowledge that predates almost EVERY civilisation we know about. A feat that, I feel, does not get venerated enough.
The history of Aboriginal people just keeps getting older and more undeniable. This could not be truer for the Kaurna people and their culture which has seen a massive resurgence in its repatriation and its accessibility. Kaurna Yerta is a magical place with tens of thousands years of history and culture and that culture is becoming more prevalent and easy to access.
Some people call Aboriginal culture/mythology the ‘Dreaming’ but I call it the ‘Everywhen’, mostly to stop the implication of an altered state of drowsiness and to further imply that the culture is a constant and that culture is actively lived. It’s a fine marginal point to make but that’s what this world is made up of, fine margins.
In saying that, embrace the Everywhen my friend for it has never been easier. There are language lessons with visual aids online, animated stories on YouTube and there are even Everywhen trails posted on council websites where you can walk the path of the old sky heroes from ancient tales.
As an artist who has lived in Adelaide the vast majority of my life, I feel an impenetrable and sometimes incomprehensible connection to this space. From the lofty hills of Stirling to the crystalline beaches of Goolwa. From the leafy greens of Urrbrae to the dry gums of Salisbury and to all of the plains and wetlands in between, there is a certain mystical energy that wraps itself around this country.
This mystical energy is fed into itself and amplified outwards when the festival season rolls around. This is a natural amplification as the core ethos of the Adelaide Festival and the Fringe festival aligns with traditional First Nations culture. Gathering, sharing and educating through culture. Something that is not done enough. At least, not done enough in earnest and without ego.
With venues spread further than any eye, mechanical or otherwise, could see, the spirit of the festival reaches through the lands of the Narungga (Yorke Peninsula), Adnyamthanha (Flinders Ranges) and all the way down to Buandig Country (Mount Gambier).
The land of this country holds patterns in its bones and the feeling of connection, celebration and culture is something that has always been fostered. A pattern that has always been drawn upon and re-drawn again to strengthen that echo. 'Karrawirra Pirri', the Kaurna word for the River Torrens which means ‘Red Gum Forest River’, has always been a place to gather, share and educate. We follow in the footsteps of our ancestors and honour their past by making it our present. So, please. Gather. Share. Educate.
So, whether ye be a punter from Adelaide or the rest of Australia or a performer from anywhere else on this wide world of culture, I implore you to engage with the wealth of information at your fingertips and dive into Aboriginal culture with respect, curiosity and revelry. Make it a point to know whose land you're on. Try to learn a new word every day or every week. Make an effort to connect with the thoughts and sounds that have been uttered on this land longer than the land remembers. Take a breath with the ancient. Walk with a full heart and a light step on your festival journey.
I’ll leave you with a beautiful Ngarrindjeri word – 'Nukkan'. Nukkan means ‘to look you in the eye’ or ‘to see’. It effectively means ‘until I see you again’. So, enjoy the festival, tread lightly and Nukkan ya soon!