The epicentre of Australian cultural events
Twigs snap as stealthy dancers, decorated in zazi (grass skirts) and coconut leaf hats stalk an invisible foe, toting mini canoes and crafted sea creatures. The warup drum offers a slow bass, before the crescendo to a feverish pitch with a cacophony of screams as the foe is chased. It’s riveting, and this performance, by the Sea People of Cape York, is just one of many involving 20 communities and 1000 performers at the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival.
If you’re keen to be immersed in one of Australia’s most culturally significant events, this is one to mark on your calendar. It’s far more than just a dance festival; it’s a meeting of tribes, where new and old family members are reunited, make new acquaintances, and exchange and pass on family histories. Each community dances its stories, the way of keeping history alive in Idigenous oral culture. And to witness the world’s oldest living culture being passed to a younger generation is awe-inspiring, an rare insider’s view to the baton-passing of time.
If you miss this biennial event, check into the annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF). It features sell-out shows, a three-day turnout of 50,000 and record art sales underpinning its role as an all-inclusive cultural gathering and ethical marketplace. From art events to artist conversations, a pop-up Eat Street, music and performances, it’s a cultural highlight. Many of the artists come from remote communities in Mornington Island, Pormpuraaw and Lockhart River – often showcasing their unique artwork and performances for the first time. Chances are you’ll find a piece of Tropical North Queensland creativity to take home with you.