George’s Green in the Darwin Botanic Gardens is all blinged up for the Darwin Festival. There are fairy lights, glittering glass chandeliers plus a Filipino cadiz shell chandelier. There’s outdoor seating and a small pub, plus take-away food options including the famous Hanuman restaurant’s offerings. With people milling and thronging before and after the concerts it’s abuzz, and a buzz!
Small concerts are being held in a new temporary venue on the Green, the Idolize Spiegeltent. It’s really cool and rather than try to explain it, I’ll just include a photo or two. Larger concerts and some events are being held in the nearby Amphitheatre.
As we sat there waiting for the venue to open to go into our first concert, an old Aboriginal bloke walking by asked me why I wasn’t smiling. I explained to him that I was tired but looking forward to the concert. He chatted for a while, explaining how he had been born a desert man but having lived in Darwin for a long time, he now felt like a saltwater man. He talked about one of the Indigenous singers who’d won an award the evening before and as he walked away, mentioned that he spoke 16 languages, no doubt most of them Aboriginal languages. Now I can be in thrall when someone is bilingual, but 16, that’s awesome. Yet there’d be plenty of people around town who’d see him and think he was a “dumb” blackfella but he’s the one speaking good English, bridging desert and saltwater cultures as well as whitefella ways. How myopic our own culture can be.
One of the great things about the Festival is that Indigenous performers are profiled for a wider audience to see and hear. Judging on last night’s concert (of which more anon), they’re either “preaching to the converted” or a lot of whitefellas are getting an Indigenous education.