First Nations poets perform original works online  

[by Stephanie Rossetto]


Tony Wilson is a Kaurna/Ngarrindjeri/Narrunga contemporary artist based in Adelaide.

Image: supplied

Adelaide Festival Centre is celebrating contemporary First Nations poetry with OUR WORDS: Spoken word from First Nations artists – an online initiative running until November 26.

OUR WORDS is a collection of eight original poems performed on camera by the poets who wrote them, with new videos shared weekly on a dedicated Facebook event.

Featured poets include South Australians from various local language groups: Dominic Guerrera (Kaurna/Ngarrindjeri), Courtney Hebberman (Ngarrindjeri/Peramangk), Natalie Harkin (Narrungga), Simone Ulalka Tur (Yankunytjatjara) and Mandy Brown (Ngarrindjeri/Peramangk).

They are joined by Queenslanders Faye Rosas Blanch (Yidinyji/Mbabaram) and Alexis West (West Birri Gubba/Wakka Wakka South Sea Islander), along with Barkindji man Steven Pappin from New South Wales.

Up first is Alexis West, whose poem Blood Sings explores themes of colonisation and ‘Aussie’ culture from an Indigenous perspective: “Around a virtual fire we invite you to listen to our songs, our words, our poetry and our culture. Our country is embedded in our bodies, our DNA and our souls. We invite you to hear our words as we share them with you.”

OUR WORDS Creative Producer Celia Coulthard said the recordings achieved what a written collection could not:

“We are broadcasting the words of these extraordinary writers in their own voice and their own style of performance. Speaking on survival, history, truth and country, these stories are enriched with 60,000 years of continuous culture and distilled by 250 years of disruption and genocide. As it always has been, it’s time to listen.”

OUR WORDS was made possible with help from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Development: Project Assistance grant from the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Coinciding with the poetry readings is Celebrating OUR MOB 2020, a compilation of significant First Nations artworks acquired by Adelaide Festival Centre from previous OUR MOB exhibitions for its Works of Art Collection.


Featured artists include Beaver Lennon, Nellie Coulthard, Tony Wilson and Mumu Mike Williams.

Since 2006, OUR MOB: Art by South Australian Aboriginal Artists has provided a platform for contemporary First Nations artists to share their stories, ideas and art with audiences. Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre, the annual exhibition showcases the diversity and depth of works created by First Nations artists across South Australia.

An online showcase of Celebrating OUR MOB 2020 works including artist profiles can be viewed on the Adelaide Festival Centre website.

The artworks are also on display at an exhibition in Adelaide Festival Centre’s Quartet Bar. However, in accordance with SA Health direction and the South Australian Roadmap for Easing COVID-19 restrictions, the exhibition can only be viewed by attendees of Festival Theatre productions.


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