The Daly River community (Nauiyu), 240 kilometres south-west of Darwin, celebrates the 27th Merrepen Arts and Culture Festival from Friday 30 May to Sunday 1 June, with a weekend of traditional and contemporary performance, colourful designs, fashion and fabrics, art sale, exhibitions, workshops, demonstrations, music from Top End bands, tasty camp fire bush tucker and a three day Sports Carnival.

This year’s highlight is the premiere of a multi-layered fashion and cultural production, Ngan’giwetimbi Dememarrgu “ Old Stories New Ways, which connects generations of ancestral stories to the Nauiyu artists of today, showing how ancient and modern techniques have been incorporated into their art, textiles and designs.

“Ngan’giwetimbi is our connection to our ancestors. We are always listening to the old stories the ancestors are telling us and passing these stories to our new generation. Our stories have been told and passed on for thousands of generations. We are now telling these old stories in a new and modern way. Even though we are here in the community, we are still spiritually connected to our ancestors,” says Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart AM, community Elder

Invited guests from the Gulf Country, The Red Flag Dhumbala Dancers, will perform the rights and rituals of The Dhumbala (red cloth introduced through contact with Macassan sailors) and Gary Lang’s NT Dance Company presents an exclusive excerpt of the story of Mokuy – the spirit that passed over, told through intricate and moving contemporary ballet.

Nauiyu artists are renowned for their beautiful designs and young Daly River community members will unveil the latest range in a unique performance choreographed by rising Torres Strait fashionista, Grace Lillian Lee. Grace previously worked with some of the artists in 2013 and their collaborative creativity overwhelmed audiences at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Presents. This year’s major fashion event includes commentary, song men, projections and movement.

Fog Dreaming, the print by renowned painter Marita Sambono, gained global attention when it was chosen for the outfit that won the Fashions in the Field Award at last year’s Melbourne Cup. Here’s your chance to be a winner and pick a fabulous fabric first!

Then after the performance it’s time to let loose to music in the moonlight with dancing in the sand to Ngukurr’s Mambali Band and Yilila from Numbulwar.

Tickets for Ngan’giwetimbi Dememarrgu – Old Stories New Ways are $20 Adults, $10 concessions and under 18’s free, available at the gate on Saturday 31 May.

Merrepen Arts Fabrics
A delightful collaboration which began two years ago between textile artist, practising printmaker and screen printer, Bobbie Ruben and the Nauiyu artists, has produced screen printed textiles that are gaining new fame for the community.

Based on traditional artwork, these stunning contemporary fabrics make more than a fashion statement as they translate to homewares and upholstery. All the fabrics are gone almost as soon as they are printed, inspiring the artists to create new and colourful designs, many of which will be seen for the first time at the festival.

Fabric designs are based on the crocodile, lotus pods, fish net weavings, coolamons, Merrepen palms, birds and fish. Each has an old story that is significant for its artist. A fabric based on the patterns of the crocodile’s skin by Aaron McTaggart, has been especially commissioned as lining for the elegant and exclusive di Croco accessories range. As are Dilly bags woven by Merrepen women with crocodile skin trim.

Art Sale
Merrepen artists are renowned for their colourful and decorative paintings, fine art prints, mats and baskets inspired by the animals and the natural beauty of the Daly River Region. The annual Art Sale is hugely successful and showcases established and emerging artists who have worked tirelessly throughout the year for this event. This year, works will be available for purchase throughout the entire weekend from 10.00am.

Dance
As well as traditional Aboriginal dance which is integral to Old Stories New Ways on Saturday night, dance groups from other cultures will perform during the afternoons – The Sunameke Pacific Island Dance Group and Xango Capoeira Brazilian Martial Arts Troupe will amaze with their music, rhythms and acrobatics.

Exhibitions, Demonstrations, Talks & Workshops
The Merrepen Arts Centre Textiles Exhibition with a new range of screen printed fabrics and John Tsialos’ photographs of life in the community are something to behold and open at 10.00am Saturday.

˜Fi’ weaving workshops, didgeridoo, spear, clap sticks and boomerang demonstrations, bush tucker tastings and talks on producing textiles, traditional hunting patterns and fire making methods, run through the weekend.

Book Launch
Sunday’s launch of Ngan’gi Plants and Animals by Glenn Wightman and Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart AM is the result of a 25-year collaboration between the renowned Territory ethno-biologist and elders within the community.

They have recorded traditional knowledge about the names, uses and stories of the plants and animals of this country, which has unique and rich biodiversity.

Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri plant and animal knowledge is embedded in landscapes, sacred sites, songs, ceremonies, Dreamtime stories and humans. We created this book to consolidate Ngan’gi biocultural knowledge into the future and ensure that it is preserved for all time.
Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart AM

Sports Carnival
Three days of football, softball and basketball kick off at 8.00am on Friday 30 May for the Sports Carnival, with teams from around the region, converging on the community for high energy thrills in the spirit of outback competition.

Background
Nauiyu is in Big River Country, an idyllic and accessible community nestled in a valley amongst billabongs, hills and the majestic Daly River. Life echoes the rhythms of the river as it floods across the vast plains and abates, feeding the spirits, animals and plants of the vast flood plains with an abundant supply of bush tucker.

Fog Dreaming “ Dagum sites are small springs and holes in the ground on the edge of the floodplains where steam or fog comes off the warm water below. They are surrounded by Spring Pandanus and Pink Apple Trees. The fog wafts around these trees especially in the cool of the morning during the cold weather of the mid Dry season. These sites have special spiritual significance for Ngen’giwumirri people, especially for artist Marita Sambono as it was one of her deceased grandmother’s dreamings, and they are found on her traditional country. The design image on the Fashion on the Field outfit captures the movement of the fog and the spiritual danger associated with coming close to it.

FAQs
Nauiyu is easily accessibly on sealed road 240 kms south west of Darwin. Drive to Adelaide River on the Stuart Highway, turn right on to Dorat Road, and after 30 kms turn right again onto Daly River Road. The festival will be signposted. There are a number of tourist parks throughout the area offering a variety of accommodation options, best to book early. There is no camping available in the community.

In May and June, the days are warm and sunny and the nights can be very cool. You will need to bring appropriate clothing such as light clothes, hats and sun protection for the day, warm clothing for the evenings. You should also bring medicines, insect repellent and drinking water. Food and fuel supplies are limited within the community.

Merrepen Arts Festival has been a popular and successful Territory iconic event for 27 years. With the recent launch of the new fabric range it has become even more sought after. This is your opportunity to buy the latest fabrics direct from the community, to meet the artists and see some of the places that inspire them. Don’t miss out!

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