From pulsating stage acts to stimulating planet talks, WOMADelaide celebrated its 25th birthday last weekend with flair. Musicians, dancers, artists and activists all joined hands for Adelaide’s annual festival of fun, food and conversation. At WOMADelaide 2017, around 90,000 wandering nomads shared the lawns and trees of Botanic Park with 400 artists from over 30 nations.
Kaurna elder, Stephen Gadlabarti Goldsmith, welcomed us all to Country. “We’re one family here. Our spirits are with us in these trees and rocks and in the clouds above us,” said Uncle Stevie, co-member of dance troupe, Taikurtinna.
At The Global Village, food and fashion traded in a swirl of flavour and colour, reflecting the festival’s multicultural acts. From the vegetarian wholefoods of Adelaide-based Let Them Eat to Sri Lankan street food, tongues were zinging. And at the Holy Cow Chai tent, savoured sips and cultured conversation were shared between stage performances.
Ethically made clothing stalls included AfroBlonde hats and bags, hand-crafted from recycled road train canvas, and Kashi’s hemp clothing. The bamb-u stall flashed sunglasses and watches made from sustainably farmed bamboo. For every item sold, bamb-u plant seven trees in deforestation-afflicted countries. Other stalls displayed handmade cowboy boots, Nepalese singing bowls and organic skincare.
Not-for-profit stands campaigned for a sustainable planet. Sea Shepherd Australia continues its fight to prevent drilling in the South Australian Bight. The Wilderness Society leads a nationwide campaign against land clearing to preserve wildlife. And Greening Australia promotes recycling and composting for apartment living. They also collaborate with WOMADelaide to offset the festival’s ecological footprint. From every ticket sold, $2 funds native tree planting in regional SA (with 70,000 planted so far). Last year’s WOMADelaide kept 98% of its waste out of landfill. They’re working towards 100%.
Indonesian EkosDance Company conveyed their environmental message through a contemporary abstract dance. Choreographed by Eko Supriyanto, the Javanese ensemble depicted changing tides, swaying corals and the endangered fish around their remote North Maluku islands. Executed with trance-inducing synchronicity, the performance was spellbinding.
From Canada, The East Pointers’ folk music resonated with lively jigs, and had festivalgoers dancing like leprechauns. The poignant lyrics of their 82 Fires ballad—written after the Tasmanian and Albertan bushfires—then brought stillness. Korean drummers, TAGO, led a high-energy hour of percussion on their sogo, janggu, kkwaenggwari and buk instruments. In line with traditional Pungmul performances, they enacted martial arts-inspired choreography adorned in sangmo ribbon headdresses.
Australia’s own Archie Roach (who attended the first WOMADelaide festival in 1992) gave heart through his gravelly voice, which resonated above a sea of umbrellas as rain showers came and went. Arnhem Land’s Gawurra, hailed as the new Gurrumul, drew in a crowd. His tenor voice sang about the dreamtime dolphin and blackbird to waves of swaying heads. Audience eyes moistened when he cried out: “I love you Australia! Black and white!”
In the heart of the park were Tyrone Sheather’s Giidanyba sculptures. The ochre-painted fibreglass and steel Sky Beings, alive with sound and light, paid homage to the Gumbaynggirr people’s spiritual ancestors.
Planet Talks kicked off at Speakers’ Corner. ABC and SBS news presenter, Miriam Corowa, hosted a panel on sustaining indigenous languages. Veronica Perrurle Dobson (2015 NAIDOC Female Elder of the Year) talked about her Central Australian plant conservation work. She also created a dictionary of language with Kaurna elder, Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien. From the APY Lands, singer, Zaachariahah Fielding, spoke of his passion for Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara languages. “I share my language through my music,” he said, therefore keeping indigenous conversation alive through a new generation of fans.
At the Taste the Word tent, performers ran cooking workshops. Swapping guitar for ladle, Jamaican song-man, Brushy One String, demonstrated how to cook a Jamaican favourite: lemon and spice-marinated chicken in the pan with rice and beans. The chicken steam-fried in coconut oil while he jammed on his quirky one-string guitar, bashing out: “Chicken in the corn… and the corn can’t grow, hey-hey!” Brushy wrote the song in his island home where he had planted corn. And you guessed it—the chicken ate it!
Quite literally, WOMADelaide 2017 was a fusion of flavours, with nations far and wide uniting to celebrate and nurture our planet. Roll on WOMADelaide 2018!