The Barunga Festival celebrates a huge 31 years this June, bringing together an excellent array of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to celebrate culture in music, arts and sports.
Taking place from June 10 to 12 at the Barunga community (roughly 70kms out of Katherine), the festival’s 2016 theme is ‘Celebrating Women’. The confirmed artists represent wicked talent across the board.
While the festival has secured both Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher (which, is awesome), Barunga hasn’t relied on their pull alone in programming a rich and diverse lineup that’s enticing for people outside Central Australia.
The Wildflower band, for instance, is a shining example of Barunga’s support of local musicians – heading up the music program, the five piece pop group hail from Mammadawerre and perform in Indigenous language.
Joining them on the line up are Kardajala kirri-darra (Sand Hill Women), featuring Eleanor Dixon from Elliott, as well as the ridiculously entertaining B2M from the Tiwi Islands. Rounding out the lineup is popular entertainer Justine Clarke.
In this particular festival set up, punters are encouraged to develop new artistic talents themselves and also, to learn about the land on which the festival takes place. Barunga’s emphasis on cultural exchange and collaboration has remained a strong presence at the front of every new announcement we’ve seen so far.
This element of the event that sets it apart from others around the country. The community welcomes visitors in over the weekend and offers unique opportunities to be a part of remote community life.
The cultural program also supports local micro businesses as well, another major drawcard for Barunga. Through the various art stalls and cultural tours on offer through the festival’s duration, local Indigenous people who live in the area are given the opportunity to access training and employment.
Says local elder Margaret Katherine of the festival and its importance to the community, it’s all about:
“Sharing cultural knowledge – the beautiful sites that ancestors walked on, bush berries, medicine plants, herbs, how the sun tells the time; how paper bark is used as a sleeping blanket or a cup. We invite everyone to hear stories about our country.”
Events like Barunga Festival have continued to prove their worth and significance to people beyond your usual festival attendee and in 2016, it’s looking like the organisers have lined up another round of programming that not only attracts audiences to the remote centre, but also offers much, much more.
We need that.