Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival 2014

05-16 Feb,

Around Town,


Fairs & Festivals,





Critics' choice

The second ever Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival transforms the city for 12 days in February, and is an opportunity to enjoy exploring new terrain

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After the success of 2012's inaugural festival, the MIAF is back bigger than ever in 2014. There are 42 largely free events, covering music, theatre, dance, cabaret, visual arts, film and discussions.

The 12-day festival opens at the Melbourne Recital Centre with soprano and MIAF ambassador, Deborah Cheetham, who will share the unique and intimate story of her journey of discovering her belonging. She'll cover music by Catalani, Cilea, Dvorak, Puccini, Strauss, Vaughan Williams and Cheetham in the show Til the Black Lady Sings. Read our interview with Deborah here.

The opening weekend is packed full of free music at Federation Square with performances from Archie Roach, Jessica Mauboy, Nathan Lovett-Murray's Payback Records Hip Hop Showcase, Yung Warriors, Christine Ward and X Factor’s Ellie Lovegrove among others.

We Still Live On is a performance by pioneering Aboriginal reggae rock artist, Bart Willoughby, on the Melbourne Town Hall’s Grand Organ. Willoughby and guest Deline Briscoe pay homage to the late poet and activist Kevin Gilbert. Another festival highlight is the world premiere of Tiriki OnusWilliam and Mary, which tells the story of activists Bill Onus and Mary Kelly using theatre, folk song and operatic performance.

Time Out Melbourne's picks of the program...

Performing Arts

Blak Cabaret
The smash hit of 2012’s inaugural MIAF, Blak Cabaret returns as a rainbow of raucousness, a sampler of song and a salve for your soul. Music, poetry, dance and drag come together. The deadly line-up includes poet and voice for reconciliation Den the Fish, decorated singer-songwriter Kutcha Edwards, choreographer and dancer Nikki Ashby, stand-up stand-out Kevin Kropinyeri, Coloured Stone founder Bunna Lawrie, bold vocal talent Illana Atkinson, and many more. It’s the perfect introduction to MIAF 2014.

Go if you like: A little bit of everything and a surprise or two.

Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt St, Southbank. Fri Feb 7-9, 8.30pm-late. $15-$20.

Torres Strait Islander Dance Group
While it is hard to pass up the excitement of Koorioboree, featuring dance groups from across Victoria, MIAF also presents the rare sight of traditional dance from the far-off Torres Strait Islands. While the TSIDG is based in the ACT, it is an amalgam of Indigenous dancers from around the nation particularly dedicated to maintaining the Torres Strait Island ‘Kultja, Kastoms and Tradition’. Those well-versed in the mysterious movements of Aboriginal dance will find fascinating similarities and stark differences displayed in the Torres Strait Islanders’ grand and joyous explosion of costume, colour and movement.

Go if you like: Flashy outfits, relentless rhythms and true spectacle.

Earth Stage, Lower Terrace, Birrarung Marr, Batman Ave, Melbourne. Feb 8-9, 5-6pm. Free.

First Friday Dance Club
So you think you can dance? Not like this... yet. Renowned physical artist Albert David is ready to share his secrets in this fun and family-friendly event. An alumni of NITV’s inclusive Move It Mob Style program, former Bangarra Dance Theatre choreographer, and the first ever winner of the Deadly Award for dancing, David will be the perfect instructor to share the graceful and powerful motions of the ever-evolving Indigenous dance culture. Be prepared to sweat and smile in this 90-minute workshop. 

Go if you like: Daring moves and watching a master at work.

Queensbridge Square, 1A Queens Bridge St, Southbank. Fri Feb 7, 6-7.30pm. Free.

Art and Craft

Ghost Net Weavers
In the Gulf of Carpentaria, discarded fishing nets from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea haunt the waters, continuing to sweep up aquatic life without regard for protected status or size. As custodians of the sea, 22 Indigenous communities across Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland have removed 7500 of these nets over the last decade and use them to create works of art. Now the public can join the Ghost Net Weavers, hear their stories of conservation, and learn how to transform this environmental curse into objects of wonder.

Go if you like: Protecting endangered wildlife with hands-on upcycling.

Lower Terrace, Birrarung Marr, Batman Ave, Melbourne. Feb 8-9, noon-6pm. Free.

The Creature From The ID
European cultures persist with the mythology of the dark side, the shadow identity, the id. Freud and Jung explored the darkness that lurks within every psyche in white culture. How does this idea translate into the Australian Indigenous experience? Art historian and curator Djon Mundine, OAM (who has curated exhibitions in many major galleries and museums nationwide) draws together a selection of Australian films at ACMI to explore whether Aboriginal culture shares this nightmarish figure, and whether it is a spectre rather than a shadow.

Go if you like: Comparative philosophy and Australian film.

ACMI, Federation Square, Melbourne. Feb 8-9, 1-6pm. Free.

Possum Skin Cloak Stitching Demonstration
Not so long ago, the ancient tradition of possum skin cloak stitching had almost died out. Now First Nations in Victoria and southern NSW are reviving this sartorial storytelling craft using modern equipment and ageless skills. The public get a chance to meet the artists and witness the art of creating the utterly unique possum pelt cloaks, each of which tells a story on their surface drawing on thousands of years of culture. Witness the heritage of clans inscribed on the cloaks and hear the tales from the makers themselves.

Go if you like: Millennia-old crafts and untold local history.

Melbourne Now Community Hall, NGV, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne. Wed. Feb 12-13, 10.30am-12.30pm & 2.30-4.30pm. Free.


Archie Roach
Archie Roach is a philosopher, a storyteller, an empathetic sage of Australian music. He has long been a bold voice for the Stolen Generation, and in 2013 received a Lifetime Contribution to Healing award at the Deadlys, and another for delivering Album of the Year Into the Bloodstream. His double-ARIA-award winning 1990 song ‘Took the Children Away’ was last year added to the National Film and Sound Archive. For those who have only heard the name and seen the face, now is your chance to experience the solemn power of Roach’s lifetime of song.

Go if you like: Deeply moving musical tales from an Indigenous legend.

Main stage, Federation Square, Melbourne. Sun Feb 9, 1-1.45pm. Free.

Bart Willoughby
Reggae-rock fusion pioneer Bart Willoughby is an integral figure in Indigenous music, forming No Fixed Address in 1978, performing as part of Coloured Stone and Yothu Yindi, and claiming the title of first Indigenous artist to score a feature film, sign a record deal, and tour internationally. He is also at the centre of this year’s MIAF, first contributing to Blak Cabaret, and later bringing together friends to be the first Indigenous artist to perform on the Melbourne Town Hall’s Grand Organ as part of We Still Live On, which pays homage to the late poet and activist Kevin Gilbert.

Go if you like: History-making Indigenous activism and history-making performances.

Melbourne Town Hall, 100 Swanston St, Melbourne. Wed Feb 12, 7-8.15pm. Free, bookings required.

Jessica Mauboy, Yung Warriors, Philly, Briggs and more
Head down to Fed Square for a mammoth free concert celebrating the next generation of indigenous music. You’ll experience the cream of Indigenous hip-hop talent: the might of Yung Warriors, combative Hilltop Hoods collaborator Briggs, bright new hope Philly, and the Payback Records showcase. There’s crossover soul siren Miss Hood, fiery protest groovers Whitehouse and blues powerhouse Crystal Mercy. And it’s all topped off with hits from the monumental pop success story (and Australia’s sweetheart) Jessica Mauboy.

Go if you like: Beats, rhymes, soul, life, and Aussie pop royalty.

Main stage, Federation Square, Melbourne. Sat Feb 8, 1.45-8.30pm. Free.

First published on . Updated on .

By Andrew Tijs   |  

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