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Yabun 2021 – leading the way

GADIGAL LAND: Congratulations to Koori Radio 93.7FM, organisers and sponsors of Yabun 2021. The festival, held each year on January 26, celebrates the ancient and adaptive wisdom of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, as well as ongoing resistance to colonisation.

This year Yabun was livestreamed, and events – panel discussions on “success”, “love” and “justice”, documentary videos, traditional dance and musical performances – were expertly curated and presented.

An online marketplace for arts and crafts, food and festival merchandise (check out the brilliant t-shirt designs) was also a feature. And Bunganura, “a place to make things”, offered interactive learning with community artists.

Rituals are key to survival, healing and nation-building, and Yabun, a Gadigal word meaning “music to a beat”, has led the way for 20 years. Its origins lie in the Day of Mourning protests at Australian Hall in 1938.

Taking part in a Speak Out discussion at the University of Sydney’s New Law Building, Lynda-June Coe said the call for Indigenous justice has grown stronger. The proud Wiradjuri and Badu Island teacher-activist said she looks for “cracks in the system” and draws on her love of country and family.

A Welcome and Smoking Ceremony took place at Victoria Park where dance groups at the Corroboree Ground included the Wagana, Gomeroi and Gawura Dancers, Koomurri, Buuja Buuja and Ngaran Ngaran. Luke Carroll and Medika Thorpe were engaging and informative emcees – cool in the heat.

The Yabun Stage was at the Seymour Centre where Redfern-based folk band GiiMusic, electro-pop singer-songwriter Tessa Thames, hip-hop artists Kobie Dee and The Magpie Swoop (“Black and deadly!”) impressed. Malyangapa and Barkindji rapper Barkaa delivered a powerful set including “Our Lives Matter” and “For My Tittas”.

Emma Donovan (The Donovans, Stiff Gins, Black Arm Band) – adept at country, gospel, reggae, funk and soul – just gets better and better. The Gumbaynggirr singer-songwriter gave a passionate performance. “Pink Skirt” (dedicated to “Nanna”) and “Mob March” were highlights. “Wearing our colours proud/ Red, yellow and black/ Screaming land rights/ Reclaiming everything back”).

Uncle Vic Simms and his Allstars brought the day to a foot-stomping finale with masterful renditions of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Rockin’ All Over the World”, “Try a Little Kindness” and Don Gibson’s “Sea of Heartbreak”. His own eloquent “Stranger in My Country” (from classic album The Loner) expressed both weariness and defiance.

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