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Regional Cabinet treated to choice selection of Kimberley culture

Regional Cabinet treated to choice selection of Kimberley culture

Regional Arts WA

This story was submitted by a member of the regional arts sector: Clancy McDowell of Kimberley Arts Network. We love sharing stories from the sector. If you want to find out how to submit your own stories, take a look at the submit your story page. We can’t wait to hear from you!


The Kimberley Regional Arts Showcase distilled a vast region’s teeming creative energy into an incredible showcase for the Regional Community Cabinet, held in Broome on September 20.

For any town hosting a Regional Cabinet meeting, the opportunity is there to capture the attention of State Ministers and Directors General who come to meet the locals on the ground. For the Kimberley, the most far-flung tip of the state, unique in its heritage, culture and environment, this was a fantastic chance to draw attention to its particular challenges and merits.

Meredith Bell (Theatre Kimberley), Jael Johnson (Theatre Kimberley), Dalisa Pigram (Marrugeku), David Templeman, Minister for the Arts, Tony Lee (Magabala Books), Clancy McDowell (Kimberley Arts Network), Paul McPhail (Regional Arts WA) and Robina burton (Marrugeku). Picture Courtesy of Clancy McDowell.

While 2020 is not a typical year, Broome has had a frenetic dry season and it’s a lively place right now. The Kimberley Arts Network (KAN) hoped to capture the character of Kimberley culture to give visitors a glimpse into this very creative region.

KAN, as representative organisation for arts in the region, worked with Regional Arts WA to put together an event that would showcase the full diversity of the region for the Community Cabinet. Packing that much scope into a showcase is a challenge: The Kimberley is huge and sparsely populated, but it has an impressive culture of creativity. There are a number of significant arts organisations working at a national level, including remote Aboriginal Community Art Centres. KAN knew that the full spectrum warranted inclusion…. But with limited space and time, how best to do it?

Visual and performance arts needed to be included, and while there are any number of artists who could be hung on the wall, we acknowledged textiles and fashion are emerging as a vibrant creative industries in the Kimberley, especially for Aboriginal women. A full fashion runway wouldn’t quite fit the space or time available, so KAN approached textile artists who supplied hand dyed silks and printed cottons. These were worn by four trainees from the Warrmijala Murrgurlayi Rise up to Work hospitality program at Nyamba Buru Yawuru.

Trainees from the Warrmijala Murrgurlayi Rise up to Work program. Picture by Clancy McDowell.

As people entered, the young women assisted the Department of Premier and Cabinet to welcome them.

“The other trainees and I really enjoyed participating because it showed us another side to hospitality, rather than just working with food. And we got to wear those beautiful scarves,” said trainee Telly Pearson.

Music from local Indigenous songwriter AJ Moore added to the atmosphere and there was a distinct Kimberley vibe as about 200 people filled the Broome Civic Centre.

Guests were invited to explore the art exhibition in the Jimmy Chi Hall. Works from across the region included contemporary artists like Jacky Cheng’s ‘Best Kept Secret’; an intricate homage to Broome, carved from layers of paper and delving into the substrata of the environment, to traditional artefacts skillfully carved by local Yawuru men. Paintings from a number of leading Aboriginal community art centres included Warringarri in Kununurra, Mowanjum in Derby, Mangkaja in Fitzroy Crossing and the Warmun Art Centre.

Independent artists Garry Sibosado shared his amazing pearlshell carved crocodile, and Moonie Djiagween added her challenging artwork ‘Pearling slavery’ which is an unvarnished and emotive response to the indigenous encounter with colonial pearling masters who blackbirded women across the Northwest.

Broome has a significant performing arts heritage with musicians such as Jimmy Chi, the Pigram Brothers as well as organisations including Theatre Kimberley and Marrgugeku. From the huge breadth of performance talent throughout the region, KAN quickly assembled a diverse set of performances for the guests, and for our own community. In the audience were civic and local leaders from local organisations and diverse community and interest groups. Marni Ham, a sixteen year old student at Broome Senior High, opened the event and charmed the audience with her own song – demonstrating an absolutely professional quality of work.

Marni Ham in performance. Picture by Clancy McDowell.

Marrugeku presented a challenging, dynamic dance by Dalisa Pigram from her solo work Gudirr Gudirr. Dalisa is a powerhouse dancer, with a complex language of gesture informed by her multicultural heritage.

Dalisa held the stage and showed that the Kimberley always delivers work that surpasses audience expectations for just how challenging and absorbing a performance can be.

“I chose quite a challenging solo piece to present, and I’m glad I did because it shared some of our complex Kimberley story with the audience. It made a real impression and highlighted how diverse our region is culturally.”

– Dalisa Pigram

While the Arts Showcase set the tone and framed it with a specific Kimberley character and style, the main point was to allow the community to engage with Ministers and State leaders. Having both Paul McPhail from Regional Arts WA and Minister for the Arts, David Templeman at the event was an invaluable opportunity for local practitioners and organisations to meet and engage with them directly.

As the afternoon moved on, a cluster of creatives jostled around the Minister and all enthusiastically agreed that the Kimberley has much to offer not only WA, but the nation and the world. Its unique heritage, uncompromising voice and its vivid expression makes it refreshing and unconventional.

KAN looks forward to continuing the conversation and sharing more of Kimberley’s voice in the future.

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