From the ground up: Growing an Australian Aboriginal cultural festival into a live musical community

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Arts and the Market




Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)




Ryan, R., Williams, J., & Simpson, A. (2021). From the ground up: Growing an Australian Aboriginal cultural festival into a live musical community. Arts and the Market, 11(2), 92-108. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAM-09-2020-0038


Purpose The purpose is to review the formation, event management, performance development and consumption of South East Australia’s inaugural 2018 Giiyong Festival with emphasis on the sociocultural imaginary and political positionings of its shared theatre of arts. Design/methodology/approach A trialogue between a musicologist, festival director and Indigenous stakeholder accrues qualitative ethnographic findings for discussion and analysis of the organic growth and productive functioning of the festival. Findings As an unprecedented moment of large-scale unity between First and non-First Nations Peoples in South East Australia, Giiyong Festival elevated the value of Indigenous business, culture and society in the regional marketplace. The performing arts, coupled with linguistic and visual idioms, worked to invigorate the Yuin cultural landscape. Research limitations/implications Additional research was curtailed as COVID-19 shutdowns forced the cancellation of Giiyong Festival (2020). Opportunities for regional Indigenous arts to subsist as a source for live cultural expression are scoped. Practical implications Music and dance are renewable cultural resources, and when performed live within festival contexts they work to sustain Indigenous identities. When aligned with Indigenous knowledge and languages, they impart central agency to First Nations Peoples in Australia. Social implications The marketing of First Nations arts contributes broadly to high political stakes surrounding the overdue Constitutional Recognition of Australia's Indigenous Peoples. Originality/value The inclusive voices of a festival director and Indigenous manager augment a scholarly study of SE Australia's first large Aboriginal cultural festival that supplements pre-existing findings on Northern Australian festivals.



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