Culture at forefront of heartfelt Karijini Experience

Sophia ConstantinePilbara News
Banjima elder Alec Tucker stands proudly with family members who performed at the Yurlu Lounge for the closing event.
Camera IconBanjima elder Alec Tucker stands proudly with family members who performed at the Yurlu Lounge for the closing event. Credit: Sophia Constantine.

It was an authentic and uplifting showcase of Aboriginal culture and pride as 2000 visitors immersed themselves in a week of heartfelt performances, workshops, and events at the annual Karijini Experience.

The cultural festival, now in its sixth year, is organised by the Nintirri Centre, and highlights the traditional culture of the Banjima people, offering the perfect opportunity to celebrate the coming together of races.

WA Symphony Orchestra string quartet performing at Kalamina Gorge.
Camera IconWA Symphony Orchestra string quartet performing at Kalamina Gorge. Credit: Sophia Constantine.

The red rugged surrounds of Kalamina Gorge provided the picturesque location for a breathtaking performance by Noongar singer Gina Williams and talented guitarist Guy Ghouse, who captivated an audience of more than 100 alongside a West Australian Symphony Orchestra string quartet.

Williams explained the meaning behind each of her songs, including one written for her mother which acknowledged the tens of thousands of children taken from the embrace of their families and their heartlands.

WA Symphony Orchestra string quartet performing at Kalaimina Gorge.
Camera IconWA Symphony Orchestra string quartet performing at Kalaimina Gorge. Credit: Sophia Constantine.
Yvonne Sitlco provides people with the opportunity to get up close and personal and learn about natures top predators.
Camera IconYvonne Sitlco provides people with the opportunity to get up close and personal and learn about natures top predators. Credit: Sophia Constantine.

From fine-dining experiences in secret locations with pop-up restaurateur Fervor to traditional bush tucker cook-ups, the Songs In The Gorge event was just one of 55 held over the six-day period.

Traditional landowners preparing a bush tucker cookup.
Camera IconTraditional landowners preparing a bush tucker cookup. Credit: Sophia Constantine.

Banjima elder Maitland Parker said it was a pleasure to be involved in the Karijini Experience and celebrate the coming together of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. He said the event had given Banjima people great pride in talking about country and being able to share their knowledge of it.

“There’s three main things that we talk about — country, language, and our culture,” he said.

“All language groups in the Pilbara maintain that but we also want to share it. That’s why we come to events like this. We’re showcasing ourselves, whether we’re talking in our language, dancing, or standing with rangers talking about bush medicine.”

As the event continues to grow in size, Mr Parker said it was important Banjima people remained at the forefront. “We never want to lose our involvement in the program,” he said. “We need to make sure us — the people — are being heard. We want to get people to respect country, not only here at the Karijini Experience but when they visit us at the park. They also then look after country, respect it, and engage with it.”

Nintirri chief executive James Jarvis said the partnership between Nintirri and traditional landowners had resulted in a strong program for 2018.

He said the vision for the Karijini Experience had always been centred on showcasing the natural beauty of country and connecting visitors to the Pilbara.

“Fundamentally it’s art, culture, and tourism together,” he said.

“It’s about living lightly on the land, living sustainably, living creatively and ensuring people go away with a love for the Pilbara.

“Its truly about trying to leverage and identify good content that visitors want to come and see.”

Local Pilbara woman and Jummi Factory business owner Josie Alec said she felt privileged to be part of the event.

Ms Alec shared her knowledge of bush medicine to create natural creams, washes, and oils using Aboriginal healing plants and remedies used by her ancestors.

“Karijini Experience has given me the opportunity to bring my sisters up to do the dream workshop and to do my bush medicine workshop,” she said.

Event manager Sonia Powell praised the army of volunteers and Banjima elders for making the event possible. She said the Karijini Experience was a stepping stone for opening up opportunities for Aboriginal people and building strong relationships.

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