Powerful Arnhem Land voices and the sounds of Darwin’s symphony orchestra could be heard across the remote community of Barunga this weekend.
A sunset performance was one reason thousands of local and interstate visitors travelled 400 kilometres south-east of Darwin for the three-day Barunga Festival.
Yolngu man Guwanbal Gurruwiwi ended his collaboration with the Darwin Symphony Orchestra on Saturday with ancient songlines, while all-female Maningrida band Ripple Effect sang about a cyclone and the dreaming spirit that scared it away.
“We want to do this music for our community and our people back at Maningrida,” Ripple Effect band member Tara Rostron said.
Tara’s sister Cindy Rostron and Anusha Taylor also travelled to the Barunga Festival to share their culture with others.
The young women took part in a fashion parade, wearing fabrics designed in their community.
Ms Rostron’s dresses were printed with her mother’s paintings.
“I was so nervous but I felt something, as I was so proud of myself,” she said.
There were fears the music, sports and cultural festival could be cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns, following the recent cancellation of Arnhem Land’s Garma Festival.
Despite receiving approval, Barunga Festival organiser Michael Hohnen from Skinnyfish Music said he took a “cautious” approach and placed a cap on interstate visitors.
He said some groups from surrounding Indigenous communities also decided not to attend this year,
“Maningrida decided not to send a few different basketball teams and I think the football is really missing the Ngukurr Bulldogs and a lot of the Ngukurr players,” Mr Hohnen said.
Barunga resident and educator Anita Painter, who sang with the community’s schoolchildren each morning at this year’s festival, said she was worried about attending at first but had no regrets.
“It’s important having visitors here,” Ms Painter said.
“It’s great what we’re doing right now, sharing our traditional songs, dance and everything to the rest of the world.”