Yarning Country: First Nations country, community and culture
Sydney – Tuesday 1 June, 2021. The Sydney Opera House today announced an evening of storytelling and song by First Nations artists from around Australia exploring this year’s NAIDOC week theme, Heal Country!. Curated by Warlpiri woman and former co-host of NITV The Point Rachael Hocking, Yarning Country will be a healing night of country, community and culture in the Studio on Thursday 24 June in the lead-up to NAIDOC Week (4-11 July 2021).
Despite centuries of colonisation, violence, dispossession and destruction of homeland, First Nations people never stopped speaking to Country. Some of the continent’s most creative forces will share stories from their country through song, poetry, dance and performance at Tubowgule (Bennelong Point), which has been a meeting place for the local Gadigal people for tens of thousands of years.
MC’d by Rachael Hocking, the line-up includes:
- Singer, songwriter and Bidjigal man Uncle Vic Simms, regarded as one of our first Indigenous protest singers. Born on the La Perouse Mission, Simms began singing at age 11 and recorded his first single aged 15. He learnt to write songs and play guitar in Bathurst Gaol where he recorded an album, Loner, released in 1973 and subsequently named one of ‘The 110 Best Australian Albums’ by former Rolling Stone Australia editors He has spent his life touring prisons and helping those who have been criminalised to find their voice. He later shared the stage with Johnny O’Keefe and Shirley Bassey, was the first Aboriginal man to appear on commercial TV, and was inducted into the National Indigenous Music Awards ‘Hall of Fame’ in 2015.
- Actor, writer and producer, Gumbaynggirr, Dunghutti and Bundjalung woman Sandy Greenwood. Her critically acclaimed play Matriarch was nominated for a Green Room award for Best Writing in 2019 and is currently being adapted into a television mini-series. She’s trod the boards for Sydney Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre and Ilbijerri, and recently appeared in Griffin Theatre Company’s production of Dogged to rave reviews.
- Hip hop artist, rapper and storyteller Neil Morris AKA DRMNGNOW. DRMNGNOW is a proud Yorta Yorta man whose work centres on decolonial content, Indigenous rights and culture. An electrifying hip hop and experimental electronic artist with a grass roots ethic and big picture vision, DRMNGNOW is driven by aspirations of First Nations liberation and sovereignty. His profile has rapidly grown off the back of decolonial anthems 'Australia Does Not Exist', 'Indigenous Land' and ‘Survive'. He has supported the likes of Mulatu Astatke, Dead Prez, and Akala, performed at SXSW and toured to Canada in 2019.
- Psychology student and Warlpiri woman Samara Fernandez. Originally hailing from the community of Yuendumu in the Northern Territory, Fernandez was named South Australia’s Young Person of the Year at the 2020 NAIDOC awards. She is a graduate of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation and was the executive editor of This is Warlukurlangu, a magazine sharing Warlpiri voices, art, stories and fashion. She recently joined the board for the Dhadjowa Foundation, where she advocates for culturally appropriate support for families whose loved ones have died in custody.
Curator and MC Rachael Hocking says: “These artists have deep connections across the continent, from Bidjigal to Yankunytjatjara. Their stories – expressed through dance, performance, song and poetry – are a timely reminder: it’s 2021, and we must begin listening to Country and to its custodians.”
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