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How to Celebrate NAIDOC Week in 2020

Celebrate the culture and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with an online film festival, a market and a dance competition.
By Concrete Playground
November 09, 2020
By Concrete Playground
November 09, 2020


Celebrate the culture and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with an online film festival, a market and a dance competition.

NAIDOC Week, the annual week-long celebration of the history, achievements and diverse culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has kicked off a little later than usual this year. And, as with everything in 2020, this edition of NAIDOC Week is going down a bit differently.

After originally being scheduled for its usual spot in the calendar in early July, the festivities were postponed to November due to COVID-19. It's now running from Sunday, November 8–Sunday, November 15. This year's theme is 'Always Was, Always Will Be', recognising that First Nations people were the first to step foot on this land and that they have occupied and cared for the land for over 65,000 years.

As is now customary for 2020, a majority of this years NAIDOC Week events will take place online. Talks, art exhibitions and markets will happening across this country — and the internet — this week so clear your schedule.

It's also important to celebrate and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples outside of NAIDOC Week. Every day is a good day to learn more about the country's history, support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses, and donate to important social enterprises and charities if you have the means.

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    Virtual Indigenous Film Festival — NAIDOC Week

    As part of the flurry of new streaming services competing for our eyeballs, FanForce TV joined the online viewing fold during the COVID-19 pandemic — with the pay-per-view platform not only screening movies, but pairing them with virtual Q&A sessions as well. Now, between Wednesday, November 11–Sunday, November 15 it’s also hosting an online film fest: its second Virtual Indigenous Film Festival.

    The returning event coincides with NAIDOC Week, and will showcase five films: In My Own Words, The Song Keepers, The Flood, Wik vs Queensland and Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy. That means you can watch your way through an array of Aussie movies focused on Indigenous stories, spanning both dramas and documentaries — and exploring race relations in the process.

    Sessions will also feature guest speakers, such as The Flood‘s writer/director/producer Victoria Wharfe McIntyre, The Song Keepers‘ filmmaker Naina Sen and Ben Strunin from Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy.

    Viewers can tune in on a film-by-film basis, or buy an all-access pass to tune into everything.

    Image: Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy

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    Club Fringe X Yirramboi: Opening Night Party

    Melbourne Fringe Festival is set to return this month (November 12–29), and with it comes one helluva opening night party. But, this year, the party will take place in your lounge room. Club Fringe will broadcast into homes all over the country from 9.30pm on Thursday, November 12.

    For this year’s festivities, Fringe has joined forces with the folks behind Yirramboi Festival as part of NAIDOC Week. They’ve curated an all-First Nations lineup including some of Melbourne’s best independent talent.

    The night will kick off with a Boonwurrung Smoking Ceremony and Welcome to Country. Then, rapper Deejai with vocalist Breanna Lee, Arrernte drag artist Stone Motherless Cold and electro-tribal pop duo The Merindas will all take to the virtual stage. DJ Soju Gang will keep the party vibes going until midnight.

    Don’t forget to nab your tickets, which are choose what you pay (with a $10 suggested donation). Then prep your dance floor (aka living room), deck yourself out in glitter and get ready to party like its 2020.

    Image: The Merindas

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    The Sydney Opera House’s First Nations dance competition will return for its sixth year in 2020. Starring more than 350 performers from all over the country, with different generations, nations and groups all represented, Dance Rites will be broadcast free online — which  means, for the first time, all of Australia can join in on the festivities.

    Close to 30 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance groups will compete in this year’s festival, including Djakapurra Dancers, led by Djakapurra Munyarryun (Songman for the Sydney 2000 Olympics); Mornington Island Dance Group, who performed for the opening of the Opera House in 1973; Dyiraamalang, an all-female group; and Luurnpa Dancers, led by acclaimed artist and senior law man Jimmy Tchooga.

    The first wave of performances will take place each night from Wednesday, November 11 through Saturday, November 14 (coinciding with NAIDOC Week). Then the finals will air the following week on Saturday, November 21.

    Each group will perform two dances — one traditional and one ‘wildcard’ dance. The judges’ assessment is based on on authenticity, reclamation work, fusion of language and music and use of costumes, crafts and cultural materials. The winners will receive a cool $20,000, with additional prizes also up for grabs.

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    Art After Hours Online: NAIDOC Week

    Sydney’s Art Gallery of NSW has taken its weekly after-hours session online — and the next two editions are all about NAIDOC Week, a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and achievements.

    On Wednesday, November 11, you can join a discussion between author and presenter Yumi Stynes, Aboriginal rights activist and proud Bundjalung woman Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts, and four-time Archibald Prize finalist Blak Douglas (aka Adam Douglas Hill). Douglas’ 2020 portrait of Dujuan Hoosan, star of the documentary In My Blood It Runs, is on show at the AGNSW until Sunday, January 2021, alongside Vincent Namatjira’s award-winning depiction of sporting star Adam Goodes — the first-ever portrait by an Indigenous artist to take out the top gong in Archibald Prize history.

    The following week, on Wednesday, November 18, curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art Coby Edgar will chat with artist and Arrernte woman Marlene Rubuntja, whose  stunning sculptures feature in the gallery’s new exhibition entitled Joy.

    Both sessions will be streamed on the AGNSW’s Facebook page and Youtube channel.

    If you’re in Sydney and can make it to the gallery, you can also head along to a free Indigenous-led guided tour of the Yiribana Gallery.


Top image: Dance Rites by Anna Kucera


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