Emma Donovan performing at the Variety Spectacular
As Desert Harmony Festival 2023: Kunjuku, Anyinginyi, Jangarlki Kapi Kaminya Palpuru; Respect, Identity and Healing, comes to a successful close, we look back on a weekend of sharing and celebrating arts with the Barkly community.
Taking place over three days from 28th – 30th of July, the festival saw 3000 attendees pass through the gates of Barkly Regional Arts.
Featuring varied performances, exciting workshops and appearances by some very special puppets in Tennant Creek, the annual festival provided an opportunity to celebrate and showcase talented creatives from the Barkly region alongside some special guest performances.
Attracting both locals and tourists alike, the 2023 Desert Harmony Festival kicked off with a vibrant opening ceremony featuring traditional dances from the Munga Munga, Pujjali and Jarra Jarra dance groups of Tennant Creek and Ali Curung/Ampilatwatja. The heartfelt Welcome to Country by Jimmy Frank was a poignant reminder of the land’s significance and the festival’s commitment to fostering reconciliation and understanding. To close out the Welcome Event, Jingili man Stuart Joel Nuggett performed some beautiful songs written by himself and his mother, Janet Gregory, in the endangered Jingili language.
This year the Variety Spectacular, held on Saturday the 29th of July, saw the likes of Emma Donovan, Radical Son & David Bridie, Katie Oliver, King Marong and the Tamala Express take to the stage.
Desert Eagles take on the BAMFest stage
Sunday’s BAM Fest saw the best of the Barkly take to the Desert Harmony stage alongside visiting headliners Docker River Band.
The crowd of around 2000 people came out early to support their local music heroes, despite the heat, and were treated for their dedication with early rousing performances from Elliott’s Harold Dalywaters, songbird Sarah Pope and Ali Curung young guns AC Reggae. The energy increased into the evening with Ti Tree reggae outfit PJ Reggae blowing the crowd away with their first ever Tennant Creek performance, followed by strong sets from crowd-favourites Desert Eagles and Jallajirrpa Band.
Songwriting Workshop led by David Bridie and Warren H Williams
Beyond the stage, the Desert Harmony Festival celebrated local artisans and culture through a program of workshop offerings and satellite events.
Locals and visitors alike had the chance to immerse themselves in bush tucker and medicine with the famous Jerry Kelly, learn the art of traditional bead making with Lorraine Gibson and create artworks from found metal pieces thanks to facilitators Claire Freer and Michelle Bates and a songwriting workshop led by ARIA-award winning producer David Bridie and CMAA & NIMA award-winning artist Warren H Williams. The festival itself was kicked off with an outdoor screening of Sweet As- an uplifting, coming-of-age movie set in WA’s Pilbara Region.
As the Desert Harmony Festival draws to a close, this year’s celebration will be remembered as a triumphant display of cultural diversity and strong community, weaving together the stories and traditions that make the Barkly unique.