Drag queens, black arts and bush tucker – Hetti Perkins talks us through Sydney’s new Indigenous cultural festival
Corroboree takes its name from the local Indigenous word ‘carriberie’ – meaning a ceremony of singing, dancing and storytelling. The word was first recorded after Europeans witnessed a celebratory gathering in the spot where Government House sits today. And that’s exactly what creative director Hetti Perkins (the former curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales) wants the new festival to be: a party for all Australians.
“I think people will find things that are really, really unexpected,” says Perkins. “I’m very excited about bringing our cultural artists from New South Wales for the Black Arts Markets; there will be the chance to meet and support the work of those artists keeping traditions alive, but in a very contemporary way.
“[Corroboree] comes from a place of really wanting to celebrate and share Indigenous culture. I don’t think Australia has really tapped, if you like, the incredible breadth and depth of Indigenous culture. There’s an inexhaustible pool of talent and – down the track – we’d like to be in a position to commission new work, and being able to reach a wider audience.”
The festival’s 11-day programme launches with a firelight ceremony featuring honoured guests Gadigal Elder Charles ‘Chicka’ Madden, Governor of NSW Marie Bashir and others. It includes: drag shows; stand-up comedy performances; panel talks with the cast of Redfern Now; bush-tucker picnics; art installations; exhibitions; Indigenous language talks; and Bangarra Dance Theatre’s new production, Dance Clan 3. It's a purposeful mix of rediscovery, storytelling and modern arts.
“We were keen from the outset that our people are the audience for the work as much as the presenters of the work; we wanted to have a festival that a lot of our mob could come to and sit back and enjoy too. We want it to be a community event that is relevant and exciting for all communities and cultures.”
The footprint of the festival will be within walking distance of Sydney Harbour, with the bulk of the action taking place at Corroboree Central, Walsh Bay. “Koori Radio is going to be there, broadcasting ‘Live and Deadly’, so we’re really excited about that,” adds Perkins. “We’re trying to create an ambient space where people can come along, be informed, but also a place where people can have a coffee and a chat.”
Corroboree’s signature events