The Festival of the Dreaming
As Festival Director of ‘The Festival of the Dreaming’, the first of the four Olympic Arts Festivals known as the Cultural Olympiad, Roberts devised a policy for authenticity and Indigenous authorship and control. The program focused on theatre, dance, music, talks, film and writers program, visual arts, rituals and traditional craft practices.
The festival was a showcase of local, national and international Indigenous artists that sought to provide channels of support and allow artists to gain exposure, grow an economic base and tour both nationally and internationally. The budget allowed Roberts to commission the production of many new works, some of which are still touring 20 years later such as BINDJAREB PINJARRA, a dark, improvised comedy about WA’s Pinjarra Massacre Created and performed by Nyoongar and Wadjella (whitefella) actors.
Other works included the story of a young singer Leah Purcell titled Box the Pony, the translation of one of the most studied texts of all time – Waiting for Godot – into the Bundjalung Language, and Fish by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance company Bangarra. This piece of work came at a critical time for Bangarra who had very little financial support and are now a leading premiere dance company and Sydney Opera House resident company.
“The Dreaming created a groundswell and we knew audiences now wanted to witness the cross expression and borders of traditional and contemporized work,” Roberts explains. But looking back, she questions whether this eagerness was just a byproduct of Olympic fever.
“I thought Australia was ready – but once the euphoria travelled to the next games, we were back trying to convince the nation and public service arts advisor that Australians needed to value the first peoples’ art and culture so it would remain part of the nation’s cultural fabric.”