First Nations collab wins Impact Award

Ashley Saltner Jnr, Hillary Coyne, Aunty Rosalind Sailor, Kyle Page and Aicey Day at the Impact Awards in Sydney

Townsville-based collaborators Wulgurukaba Walkabouts, Big Eye Theatre (Mula Jina Warran and Mula Jina Jalbu), Komet Torres Strait Islander Arts and Culture, Sambo Productions, and Dancenorth Australia have won a 2022 Performing Arts Connections Australia Impact Award for the cross-cultural collaborative performance project DUNGARRI NYA NYA NGARRI BI NYA.

Two years in the making, DUNGARRI NYA NYA NGARRI BI NYA brought together more than 70 artists to co-create a performance that celebrated and honoured traditional culture and contemporary aspects of First Nations culture.

The 2021 performance combined traditional song and dance by the collaborating groups, costume design by Jessica Johnson, artwork by Gail Mabo and a performance by award-winning multi-lingual rapper Baker Boy.

DUNGARRI NYA NYA NGARRI BI NYA has been recognised with an Impact Award PHOTO: Amber Haines

Wulgurukaba Traditional Owner and leader of the Wulgurukaba Walkabouts Ashley Saltner Jnr said the process of making the work was an opportunity for healing and celebrated the strength of the community through dance.

“As a Wulgurukaba Traditional Custodian, it was an honour to welcome other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as our non-Indigenous collaborators, to create and share this experience on our Country,” said Mr Saltner Jnr.

“This was a significant moment for the Townsville community, as we came together for reconciliation through dance, which for us as Aboriginal people is how we continue to teach, practice, and share culture on our Country.

“DUNGARRI NYA NYA NGARRI BI NYA means ‘now we have arrived’. The impact of this project is that we now have momentum to move forward together.

“There were a lot of songlines, stories and language that were lost. Because a lot of our songlines tie together, having different groups come together has meant that we were able find new pieces of the puzzle,” Mr Saltner Jnr said.

The collaborative performance gives First Nations groups in North Queensland ‘momentum to move forward’ PHOTO: Amber Haines

Director of Big Eye Theatre Rosalind Sailor believes that this is an historic moment for the Townsville community.

“The project allowed Elders, students, young people, and families to come together. This was needed in our community.”

“It was an opportunity to lift our mob up. Collaborating with the professional dancers from Dancenorth and with Baker Boy was a fantastic source of inspiration for our young people to create a vision and explore new avenues for their future.”

“It was an opportunity to lift our mob up.”

Leader of the Komet Torres Strait Islander Dancers Aicey Day acknowledged the importance of the event.

“This was a momentous occasion for our region with both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people coming together as one First Nations people”.

Bringing Indigenous and Non-Indigenous performers together. PHOTO: Amber Haines

Dancenorth Artistic Director and Co-CEO Kyle Page emphasised the extraordinary achievement of everyone involved in delivering this uniquely Queensland Indigenous arts and cultural celebration.

“As the only non-indigenous organisation involved, Dancenorth feels a deep sense of gratitude for being invited to participate. This was an entirely collaborative process and no one voice held the central authority. It has strengthened our capacity to authentically and respectfully engage with First Nations peoples employing a human-rights based approach that prioritises self-determination, consultation, deep listening, and trust.”

DUNGARRI NYA NYA NGARRI BI NYA was supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund – an Australian Government initiative, and Townsville City Council through the North Australian Festival of Arts.

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