‘New ways of creating art’: A guide to Melbourne’s tremendous YIRRAMBOI Festival lineup

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‘New ways of creating art’: A guide to Melbourne’s tremendous YIRRAMBOI Festival lineup

Words by Luke Carlino

Artist and curator Rosie Kalina delves into the lineup and picks her must-see act.

As our collective excitement grows for this year’s YIRRAMBOI Festival, we’re working through the colossal lineup to plan the perfect way to celebrate Australia’s leading First Nations showcase. Held in Naarm from May 4 to 14, the diversity of First Nations culture is certainly on display for YIRRAMBOI’s fourth and biggest year yet.

We couldn’t have had a better guide to help us choose from the 300 First Nations creatives across the 10 days and 40 venues and locations. Rosie is a proud Wemba Wemba/Gunditjmara woman, who is an artist, curator and creative associate for YIRRAMBOI, a position she recently received after starting out as a community arts worker and make-up artist with a range of experience from film and TV to fashion and other community-focused organisations.

Explore Melbourne’s latest arts and stage events, festivals, exhibitions, productions and performances here.

If you’ve been to the Footscray Arts Centre, you’ve likely seen Rosie’s work over the years, which has focused on a First Nations future, perfectly in tune with the theme of this year’s festival. “I work with a lot of young people to break down barriers in various institutions,” she says. “It’s a real blessing to do this now with YIRRAMBOI, to bring the ideas we all have together and create an experience for our community.”

YIRRAMBOI is now in its fourth year and Rosie explains how this iteration is not only the biggest, but also one of the most significant. “We are proud to be bringing it back in a collaborative way. It’s an honour to see it back and watch it grow. This year we are really expanding on who we are as First Nations people, showing the diversity, beauty and joy that we bring to our community. After the lockdowns, we’re rising up and coming together in a way that is really celebratory; we’re still here, and we got through some tough times, and that holds a huge amount of significance.”

With performance categories ranging from dance, circus, comedy, visual arts, workshops, conversations, music, film, drag, theatre, cabaret and fashion – YIRRAMBOI is one of Melbourne’s most thrillingly diverse festivals with art for every taste and budget.

The YIRRAMBOI program shows the scope of artistic output from First Peoples in Australia and across the world.

“We’re pushing different mediums and platforming new ways of creating art, but I think this happened naturally with the creative art scene in Melbourne; given the tough times we’ve come through, we’ve seen an amazing shift.”

As for her must-see choice from the massive amount of options? “I’m going to back myself,” she says, “as I’m curating and directing TOMORROW: the experience.”

First Nations futurism is displayed in a runway-style show in TOMORROW: the experience. It’s the first time YIRRAMBOI is hosting a fashion show, and explores the concept of a post-apocalyptic world through the lens of First Peoples. “I’m really proud of this all-First Nations lineup of designers with performances by dancers. It will be immersive and different from traditional runways, which I think is such an exciting thing because it’s moving away from the consumerism aspect of fashion and platforming the designers as artists.”

TOMORROW: the experience takes place at The Uncle Jack Charles Festival Hub at the Meat Market in North Melbourne on Friday, May 12 at 7pm. “It is essentially a big performance piece accompanied by the beautiful garments we make. I’m really proud of it, it’s really experimental, and I wouldn’t want to miss it.”

Free activities are also planned throughout the 11-day festival, including a massive, city-wide Blak Out and Archie Roach Block Party, happening on May 6, which will take over the city with music, activities, and art installations.

Before we end our chat, Rosie mentions how important it is for people to realise that this year’s YIRRAMBOI is a true homage to the community’s elders. “This is for our ancestors, elders that came before us and all of the people who paved the way; we’re also building a future that will nurture the younger ones coming up now. This is a celebration of Blak love and Blak joy, which is the most important takeaway for YIRRAMBOI this year.”

YIRRAMBOI festival runs from May 4 – 14, featuring both free and ticketed events covering a range of unmissable artistic mediums from the First Nations community. Find out more information here.

This article was made in partnership with YIRRAMBOI.