The 2006 Dreaming Festival: Conceptual Unity: Cultural Diversity?
Major Aboriginal arts festivals provide an opportunity to track change and evolution in Aboriginal arts philosophies, and to identify the interpretive frameworks and discursive formations used by Aboriginal and Settler publics to claim, understand and approach Aboriginal performances, and by extension, Aboriginal culture.
The 1997 Festival of the Dreaming, convened in Sydney as the first part of the Sea Change cultural festival of the 2000 Olympics, marked the end of Mudrooroo’s influential Hegelian conception of Aboriginal cultural production. Mudrooroo had theorised from a premise of the essential unity of Aboriginal community and culture and asserted the existence of an essential, and matrical Aboriginality, that tendentiously, could be identified by those who knew, and used to judge works by Aboriginal artists, but that could also nurture and heal individual Aboriginals and communities.
While Aboriginal artists have moved on from the stasis of an authoritarian Aboriginal cultural politics to a creativity, open to a range of influences and challenges, and addressing the complexities and diversity of Aboriginal life in contemporary Australia, one of the consequences of the supercession of Mudrooroo’s cultural philosophy has been the intellectual challenge of locating a conceptual unity amid the diversity of cultural determinations and representations of contemporary Aboriginal culture.
This paper discusses change and diversity and the problems of conceptualisation with reference to performances at a contemporary Aboriginal arts festival, The Dreaming: Australia’s International Indigenous Festival, which has been held annually since 2005 at Woodford, Queensland
Keywords: National Imaginary, Revolutionary Art, Indigenous Australia, Cultural Change, Cultural Philosophy
Philip John Morrissey
Lecturer, Department of English with Cultural Studies, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies