An inter-cultural festival grows deep in the desert. Something like it is mooted for Alice Springs. What can we learn from our northern neighbours?
"Fire is the glow of life. The four winds – from north, south, east, west – control the fire, control us. Milpirri is the story that will ignite the fire of who they are."
'They' are the participants in the Milpirri Festival whose fourth manifestation will be staged at Lajamanu, in the northern reaches of the Tanami Desert, halfway between Alice Springs and Darwin, in October this year.
Speaking was the festival's artistic director, Steve Patrick Jampijinpa, a son of the community and a former school teacher there, now a research fellow at the Australian National University. Mr Patrick gave the keynote address at this week's forum on experimentation and innovation in desert arts.
The motto of the festival is "speak to the land, the land will speak back", he said. The next image he invoked (that I caught from his softly spoken speech delivered as a string of beautiful metaphors) was of "hot air rising, cold air falling" – a metaphor for coming together, possibly in a thunderhead – a "voluminous cloud full of fury".
In coming together "there'll always be a bit of a rough time" but out of the clouds comes "life-giving rain".
That rain has grown the festival, a joint effort of the community and the Darwin-based Tracks Dance Company which has been working with the Warlpiri people of Lajamanu since 1988. So Milpirri is "an inter-cultural venture". KIERAN FINNANE reports.