By Ally Coe, CEO of Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation Inc., and
Dr Merrill Findlay, co-founder of Big Skies Collaboration
On behalf of Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation, the Wiradjuri Condobolin community, Big Skies Collaborators, and our many sponsors and supporters, we’d like to welcome you all to our third Condo SkyFest Miima Warrabinya (Seeking the Stars) at the iconic Wiradjuri Study Centre. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the 2020 and 2021 Condo SkyFests because of the COVID pandemic, but this year’s event more than makes up for those two lost years.
Condo SkyFest Miima Warrabinya 2022 includes new ways of sharing Wiradjuri cultural identity and heritage. The festival opens on Friday evening, 2 September, with Dhuluyanha Miiya (Walking Together), an intergenerational fashion parade, our inaugural Gala Dinner, and previews of some of our Saturday events.
Our gates re-open to the public at 2 pm on Saturday with a dedicated children’s program guaranteed to get little people dancing, giggling and frolicking with joy. The program continues with workshops, exhibitions in our renovated gallery, lots of music and dance, our first ever Miima-gu Ngaahna Regenerative Futures Expo, and a truly mind-expanding Extended Reality (XR) projection, the likes of which have never been seen in Condobolin. So, there’s something for everyone at SkyFest 2022!
We chose the name SkyFest for two reasons: because the sky unites people of all cultural traditions and because Wiradjuri people are re-awakening and revitalising their ancestral traditions and knowledge, including astronomy and skylore, and want to share them with the broader community. We are honoured to be part of this process.
Harold (Ally) Coe, CEO of Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation
Dr Merrill Findlay, Big Skies Collaboration
Giralang Bundinya – Shooting Star: dance workshop for women and girls at the Wiradjuri Study Centre, 49 McDonnell Street, Condobolin. All welcome to learn this dance for SkyFest
Dhuluyanha Miya (Walking Together) is a parade by local women and girls who want to share their intergenerational connections as great-grandmothers, grandmothers, aunties, mothers and daughters through the medium of fashion. The models are all members of the Elders Yarn-Up Group and the Shine Group hosted by MarathonHealth’s Wiradjuri Wellbeing Program. The outfits they are modelling have been made for them by local elder Dawn Johnson from fabrics designed by Central Australian artists. Each of the designs tells a different Dreaming story.
The models tonight are Dawn Johnson, Sheila Drew, Margaret Dawson, Deb Coe, Eve Coe, Shirley Merritt, Bonnie Merritt, Tracey Saubier, Becky Dodgson, Virginia Griffiths, Serena Richards, Nikita Atkinson, Gemma Nolan, Dimania Parker, Madeline Richards and Kia Parker. The children are Mahayla Atkinson, Kitarana Atkinson, Kelsie Dargin, Kailani Richards, Khalil Richards, Kiara Parker, Paityn Johnson, and Candice Dodgson. They will be introduced by Marathon Health’s Project Officer Lee-Anne Denyer. Uncle Dick Richards will conduct the Welcome To Country with the support of Condobolin’s Galari Bila Waga Dhaanys.
Our inaugural Condo SkyFest Miima Warrabinya Gala Dinner will is hosted by Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation’s CEO, Harold (Ally) Coe, the WCC Board and local Elders. The menu, as prepared by Chef Gerald Power, CEO of Indigenous Cultural Adventures and Deputy Mayor of Orange, includes foods that Wiradjuri people have been enjoying on the inland plains for tens of thousands of years.
Pre-dinner mocktails will be served on the veranda (the Study Centre is an alcohol-free zone) to allow guests to mingle and enjoy the Dhuluyanha Miya (Walking Together) fashion parade.
Dinner guests will also be able to preview exhibitions by Beverley Coe, Belinda Coe, Marathon Health’s Shine Group, and participants in the Suicide Prevention Program run by the Primary Health Network, and experience the interactive Extended Reality (XR) projection, SpacePlay, by Big Skies Collaborator David Clarkson and his Box of Birds team from Sydney.
Live music, storytelling, Wiradjuri-speaking muppets, contemporary and traditional Wiradjuri dance, exhibitions, an interactive XR projection, workshops, the inaugural Regenerative Futures Expo, plus a night of contemporary Wiradjuri music, including Hip-hop, R&B, Rock, even a little bit of Country.
Gates open at 10.30 am for Expo stall holders and at 2.00 pm for the general public.
Welcome To Country by Uncle Dick Richards introduced by Harold (Ally) Coe, CEO of Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation
Regional artists and makers, businesses, government departments, educational institutions, and corporations showcase their products and services, which take us towards a safer, more ecologically sustainable and just future for all.
Cheeky Wiradjuri-speaking Youtube stars Ruthie and Petal will be circulating in the crowd to chat with you about their heritage and teach you a few Wiradjuri words. They’ll be supported by their human cousins, Ruth Davys and Pettina Love from Albury. Videographer Jess Love will document their visit, possibly for a new Youtube video.
Award-winning singer-song writer Uncle Johnny Huckle, aka ‘Barley’, returns to his hometown to open SkyFest’s Children’s Program with his famous Wombat Wobble, the irresistible dance-along song which, according to The Canberra Times has become “a staple of Australian childhoods”. Uncle Johnny will return to the stage for our Night Program with the kind of music that gets adults dancing too.
Acclaimed storyteller Larry Brandy has travelled the world to share his stories about Wiradjuri Culture. He returns to his hometown to tell them in ways that especially delight little people. His latest children’s book, Wiradjuri Country, was launched at the National Library of Australia in 2021. Larry was born and raised in Condo and now lives in Canberra.
The Sistas of the Condo SistaShed meet regularly to enjoy arts and crafts activities. You can see some of their works at the SistaShed and meet some of the Sistas to learn more about Wiradjuri cultural heritage.
The large canvases in Aunty Bev Coe’s new exhibition extend the work she has been developing over the past several years to ‘re-awaken’ stories about one of the region’s most important sacred sites, Seven Sisters Ridge near Yarrabandai. In these stories, seven young women leap into the sky to escape a hunter and become the Mulayndynang or the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades star cluster. This ridge is an important sacred site on the Seven Sisters Songline.
Condo artist and graphic designer Belinda Coe of Galari Creative designed this year’s beautiful SkyFest poster of the Celestial Emu over a photograph of the Milky Way by Award-winning astrophotographer Niall MacNeill from Bathurst. She borrowed the x-ray style of painting from Arnhem Land to show the Emu’s internal organs. Belinda sees her artwork as continuing her people’s connection to the sky and sky lore.
Marathon Health’s Wiradjuri Wellness Project’s Shine group meets regularly to paint, sew, yarn and relax. Their artworks celebrate good mental and physical health and positive attitudes.
The works in this exhibition are by participants in workshops conducted by Condobolin artist Karen Tooth for the Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Primary Health Network supported by Western Plains Regional Development, Condobolin Aboriginal Health Service and Lachlan Arts Council. These weekly art workshops for both First Nations and non-Indigenous people were held at the Condobolin Health and Wellness Centre. The artists were asked to focus on the sky. They discussed ideas about the sky, asteroids, stars, galaxies, constellations, and other celestial objects and what colours and viewpoints to use. They also experimented with different paints and techniques, such as blending and splattering, as you can see in these cosmic images.
with Aunty Iris Reid and Tracey Rapley in the Wiradjuri Study Centre’s computer room.
Aunty Iris Reid teaches Wiradjuri Language at Yarradamarra Aboriginal Centre, Dubbo TAFE. In this workshop, she will share Dreamtime stories about the stars given to her by her elders and talk about star totems, their stories and the animals which relate to them. You’ll also create your birth month animal from tree nuts and, in the process, learn more Wiradjuri words.
Aunty Iris Reid is a Wiradjuri elder from Narromine, NSW. Her mob comes from Gilgandra, where she was born, Dubbo, Peak Hill Condobolin, and Wellington. In her free time, Aunty Iris enjoys arts and crafts, bushwalking, and teaching young family members about their ancestral language and culture so they can pass this knowledge on.
Aunty Iris’s assistant, Tracey Rapley, is an Aboriginal Student Support Officer teaching the Wiradjuri Language at St John’s College Dubbo.
Local elder, Uncle Dick Richards, is a champion boomerang maker and thrower. He loves teaching others to throw this ancient weapon safely. So, give it a go! See the blackboards for where Uncle Dick is demonstrating his skills.
In this workshop, Tatiana Bonch-Osmovskaya will show you simple and effective techniques to paint the night sky with acrylics. You’ll be able to use the paint flow and your imagination to create a picture of a galaxy, a comet, a moon, or a solar wind! She’ll also share some of her favourite stories about the universe while you paint. Check the blackboard to find Tatiana’s workshop.
Tatiana is a physicist, writer and poet based in Sydney. She studied physics and mathematics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, then literature at the Collège Universitaire Française, and received a Magister in physics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT). After migrating to Australia, she received a PhD in literary studies from UNSW. Recently, she has presented STEAM seminars and workshops at the international Bridges Festivals of Mathematical Arts and taught an online course on the History of Mathematics at the Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information Centre (GERRIC), UNSW, plus several courses on the History of Mathematics and Amusing Mathematics for WEA Sydney.
Giralang Bundinya – Shooting Star: a dance choreographed for Condo SkyFest by Jo Clancy and performed by girls from Condobolin High School, Condobolin Primary School, and the women and girls who participated in Jo’s community dance workshop on Friday.
Yindyang Bila: a new dance choreographed by Jo Clancy in response to the flow of the ancient rivers and the dust underfoot on Wiradjuri Ngurambang (Country). Performed by Jo Clancy and Wagana dancers Shana O’Brien, Tammi Gissell, Ceane Towers, Jannali Towers, Kyha Towers, Rebecca Tempest, Matt Tempest, Regina Tempest and Phoenix Tempest from the Blue Mountains.
Waiwan man Steve Taylor, senior Aboriginal educator with Dinawan’s Connection, Cowra, and Condobolin’s Galari Bila Waga Dhaanys will make a dramatic entrance into the dance ring to perform ancient stories about the animals who live with us on Wiradjuri Country. As an educator, Steve takes inspiration from the male Dinawan (emu), who accepts responsibility for hatching the eggs, raising the chicks, and teaching them how to survive as good adults. For him and for the men and boys he works with,
dancing is a fundamental way of connecting with Country, maintaining a positive outlook, and living a healthy life. He and the Galari Bila Waga Dhaanys will be inviting everyone – boys, girls, women and men — to join them in the dance ring as they celebrate 65,000+ years of Wiradjuri heritage.
In 2021, Phil Relf of Ikara Celebratory Events, Northern Rivers, and Condo’s Aunty Bev Coe conducted lantern-making workshops with the Condo SistaShed artisans, Marathon Health’s Shine Group, and the staff of Condobolin Primary School and St Joseph’s Catholic School. Hundreds of paper lanterns were made as a result of these efforts. Then Covid struck, and all the lanterns were put into storage. Now, in 2022, the lanterns can be liberated! So collect your lanterns and be part of our parade. Listen for announcements and check the SkyFest blackboards for further details.
Our Lantern Project was funded through the Australian Government’s Community Arts Support Program (CASP).
The first time anything like Space Play has been seen west of the Blue Mountains! This interactive Extended Reality (XR) projection takes you on a tour of our solar system like you’ve never imagined. It will amaze, astonish and fascinate you and maybe even inspire young locals to consider a career in digital technologies, animation, or space science.
Space Play was co-created by Big Skies Collaborator David Clarkson, co-founder of the award-winning physical theatre company Stalker and Box of Birds, a multi-disciplinary group of creatives committed to producing amazing digital artworks. One of Space Play’s co-creators, Sydney-based 3D artist Boris Bagatinni will be on-site to answer your questions about Space Play and the technologies used to create it. An excellent opportunity for Condo’s aspiring animators to find out more about C21st digital technologies.
Food for meat lovers, vegetarians, vegans and those with gluten sensitivities.
Hip Hop, Rock, R&B, a bit of Country, and lots of Wiradjuri heart and soul as our fabulous singer-songwriters get you dancing into the night.
These gifted Wiradjuri cousins from Dubbo are musical legends on the Inland plains and beyond. Their repertoire includes everything from gentle ballads to foot-stomping rock. There’s hardly a popular song from the past few decades they don’t know. And then there are the songs they write themselves in Wiradjuri and English.
Janita Coe and the Gaalmadhaay Songmakers Project
Janita has been called Condo’s Aretha Franklin because of the remarkable quality and range of her voice. She learned to sing at the Aboriginal Inland Mission church at the former Willow Bend Mission near Condobolin and later in the school choir at Condo High. When the music teachers discovered she ‘had a bit of a voice’, she recalls, they moved her to the front row of the choir!
Condo SkyFest will be Janita’s first public performance. She will sing two rousing new songs from our Gaalmadhaay Songmakers Project, Because Of Her We Can and Drugs Are Poison In The Veins of Life. The lyrics of these songs are by local poet Monicque Merritt with music by Blue Mountains composer Peter Kennard. Janita will be accompanied by Shane Riley on guitar and Peter Kennard on cajon.
Another member of our Gaalmadhaay Songmakers Project, Condo creative writer and primary school teacher Marion Wighton-Packham, will perform a song-in-progress, Dancing On Country, as a tribute to her niece, Storm, who suffers from the inherited degenerative Sandhoff Disease.
The Gaalmadhaay Songmakers Project was made possible by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support through Arts OutWest. We hope to extend it with further funding.
This dynamic hip-hop duo from Dubbo, Anthony Riley and Brian Ah-See, were both born into musical families and have been performing in bands for most of their lives. They now share a passion for hip-hop and use their words and music to help revitalise their mother tongue, Wiradjuri.
Johnny grew up in a tin shack on Condo’s Murie reserve. He now lives in Canberra and has been performing professionally for almost 50 years. In that time, he has played with some of Australia’s best-known Blak bands, toured in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe, released an EP and several solo and collaborative albums, and performed at major Australian music festivals, including the National Folk Festival, Woodford, Port Fairy, Fairbridge, and Broome’s Stompem Ground Festival. Now he’s back in Condo where it all began!
Unfortunately, our astronomy event has been cancelled because Donna the Astronomer from Milroy Telescope, Coonabrabran, is unwell.
We gratefully acknowledge the support we’ve received from dozens of people and organisations from Condobolin and beyond who have made our third Condo SkyFest Miima Warrabinya possible, especially our sponsors, performers, and volunteers. A very long list.
A special thanks to the WCC Board and Staff, our creative director Dr Merrill Findlay, and our dedicated site manager Becky Russell and stage manager Brendon Napier, from ProductionArt theatre and events. Condo SkyFest Miima Warrabinya would not have been possible without you.
For more, see Facebook.com/CondoSkyFest, skyfest.com.au, and bigskiescollaboration.wordpress.com