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Photo: Catherine Acin

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longing, belonging, land

Melbourne International Arts Festival  2008 - Opening Night

In this post apology era – where to from here?

A public ceremony of personal commitment to healing and change marking the ongoing significance, necessity and importance of the Federal Government's National Apology to the Stolen Generations, the Ngarra Jarra tree blazed, laden with ‘clooties’, at Birrarung Mar on the Opening Night of the Melbourne International Arts Festival 2008.

Each ‘clootie’ or cloth contained a hand written expression of commitment inspired by the Apology, by love of country or  by the urgent need to ‘Close the Gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Over 1000 clooties  containing handwritten messages were created by children from Primary schools, community groups and local council reconciliation groups across Melbourne.

During the Opening Musical Event at Federation Square more clooties were collected from the audience and used as the final decoration of the Ngarra Jarra Tree, before the audience was led in procession to the banks of the Birrarung (Yarra River) , the river of mists, for longing, belonging, land.

A procession of illuminated shrines, a unique healing ceremony, fire ritual and dance took place between Indigenous and non-Indigenous elders, performers, artists and musicians at the foot of the Ngarra Jarra Tree.The Ngarra Jarra tree was created as a participatory, site specific honouring of the Stolen Generations. Ngarra Jarra translates as ‘Healing’ in Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people. The 5m tall Ngarra Jarra Tree was covered with the small red ‘clooties’; each woven in to the metres of fire rope that burned, releasing hopes and dreams for reconciliation, remembrance  and equity, at the peak of the ceremony.

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