Fresh Water Festival launches in Broken Hill

Taya Biggs (left) and Jade Cicak (Right) are part of a group that have been refining their own designs and screen printing them on products that will be for sale at today’s Fresh Water Festival for the Barka

Fresh water Festival for the Barka will host its first celebration of First Nations People’s connection to water, the river and land later today.

The festival will showcase and demonstrate the very alive and lively Aboriginal culture that exists in Far West NSW through music, food, art stalls and the announcement of the Maari Ma Indigenous Art Awards.

Performing Barkandji /Malyunapa artist Leroy Johnson said that he is happy to be a part of a festival celebrating the diverse creations from local aboriginal communities.

“it’s not something that happened a long time ago. It’s a living culture. To showcase that is awesome.”

Mr Johnson said that having the opportunity to perform and share stories with other creators, including fellow musician Nancy Bates is something he greatly values.

“I always cherish the opportunity to work with Nancy because she is so talented and such an inspiring person. She has got a lot of knowledge that she can transfer musically.

“I just love to soak all that knowledge that she gives so freely through her music. I always learn so much from Nancy.”

Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery Director Blake Griffiths said that the festival had been conceived and created in response to Uncle Badger Bates and the Wilcannia students’ inclusion in the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, Rivus.

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“It’s really important that art being created on river systems be celebrated in the places they were created.”

“The festival is an opportunity for the whole community to be able to come together and share in First Nation’s culture of the Far West, as well as allowing makers in the region to sell their work and share it with as big an audience as possible.”

He said that now in its 12th year, this would be the second time Maari Ma Indigenous Art Awards would be announced in a festival setting.

“Since working on the prize, it has increased in quantity and quality; people need to enter recent work, so you can see the different things people are making each year.”

Local Barkindji creator extraordinaire David Doyle will be selling a range of products.

Ranging from potions, lotions, creams, soaps, silk scarves, earrings, and reusable cups, said that it has been great to watch some of the younger creators getting their art ready for the festival.

“Our young people are making stuff that is looking really professional.

It is going to be a good booster for them to show that people will actually purchase their stuff and it’s the kind of stuff they will want to and be happy to pay a premium for.”

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Mr Doyle, who has been involved in a series of screen-printing workshops running over the last few months, said that he has been able to watch a few young people grow in that space and feel more confident with what they are doing.

“Before Christmas, Joe was too shy to print a design he did of a shield, and now, he is printing it on big pieces of paper and entering it into the art prize. That is a proud moment for me to watch.”

Mr Johnson said that it can be a very daunting thing to put your creative work in the world.

“I am very happy that these young people are taking the dive in and saying here’s what we have to offer.”

“What it does is it creates a community of artists,” he said.

“The more people do it, the more other people may have a go.

To see young people have a go is testament to our more established artists leading the way for it.”

“When you create something, it’s very personal; it’s an extension of you,” he said.

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“When you put it out there for other people to judge, it can be a very daunting thing.”

“I admire people who can put their stuff out for other people to look at, listen to, judge, critique, it’s a brave thing to do, but individually you get so much out of it, and hopefully, other people get something out of it.”

Barkindji artist Barbara Quayle, who will be selling and showcasing jewellery she casts in bronze and silver, from shells, seeds, leaves and bark said that the festival is well timed and will be a positive celebration of First Nations People’s connection to country.

“It’s been a dry country for a long time, we had a very unhealthy country, and now that the water is back, and the environment is getting better, it’s like a celebration of life having water on country,” she said.

“it’s how we share the country, whether it is by painting casting, music, or a piece of wood being made into a necklace, we use mother earth. She provides in many ways.”

Fresh Water-Festival for the Barka is on today, 9th April, from 5pm to 8pm PM at the GeoCentre garden (Bromide St &, Crystal Ln).

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