Wominjeka Festival and the importance of celebrating the diversity of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture
Celebrating the rich wonder and diversity of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, Wominjeka Festival is back with its typical abundance of artistic flair.
For Associate Producer – and performer in last year's festival – Brett Lee, the crafting of the incredible week-long event has been a rewarding and interesting experience.
"It gives a different angle to what you're looking for," Lee says of the position. "You're not just trying to find a musician – you want to find an artist that can work with kids and can deliver an interesting program. Not just for a one-set kind of thing, you're looking for an artist that can run a workshop for a whole day."
After enjoying his time in the 2016 Wominjeka Festival, Lee began working at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, before becoming Associate Producer on the current festival's roster. Together with Lydia Fairhall, Head Programmer and one half of contemporary folk/pop duo Tigerlilly, Lee has assisted in weaving an exciting array of creative workshops, art, music, movement, performance and film. Specifically, Lee has been instrumental in the School Holiday Arts Program, which contains workshops from the likes of Ilbijerri Theatre Company – Australia’s longest running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Company – and Circus Oz's BLACKflip, featuring Indigenous circus trainers teaching children the skills and fun involved in the circus world.
With so much on offer, Lee can't pinpoint what he's most excited for. He's looking forward to Little Wominjeka Klub, which contains the legendary reggae-fusion stylings of the Bart Willoughby Band and country/rock/reggae group The Stray Blacks. He mentions Scribe, a project for emerging artists that holds a wide variety of showings, storytelling and readings. Over the course of the event, you'll find acclaimed performance artist Jack Sheppard delivering his story of Indigenous life and culture through movement and poetry in The Honouring, writer Hannah Donnelly reading passages from and discussing her work, and artist Miliwanga Wurrben presenting her Dreaming story behind her painting. Finally, there's the Laneway Festival-partnered Terrain 2017, which includes rising stars from our local area such as Alice Skye.
"There's so many different countries in Australia," Lee says. "Our mob are so diverse within that, so it's pretty different for every clan, you know, what their issues and what their focus is on. It's always interesting to hear that variety in an event like this, where we've got Gawurra from Arnhem Land, and Leah Flanagan, who's also based up north, and Frank Yamma, who's from WA, and Yorta Yorta man Benny Walker who's from here. It's really cool to see that diversity within our mob."
Beginning his own musical journey at the age of 20, Lee understands the power of music, and an event like Wominjeka Festival which nurtures this talent. His love for his craft has only grown since. The festival has personally aided him with experience and passion, and continues to provide a truly integral opportunity for all.
"I was 20 when I started playing music," Lee says. "I used to be an athlete before that. When I stopped training, that was the first thing I did - started playing a ukulele and teaching myself how to play music.
"I guess culture and expression of language and family is one of the focuses of the festival, and what it really strives to provide access for the community to."
By Jacob Colliver
Wominjeka Festival runs from Saturday January 14 - Saturday January 21 at Footscray Community Arts Centre.