YIRRAMBOI showcases a thriving First Nations creative culture

Kaylah Joelle Baker

For its fourth iteration, Melbourne’s leading First Nations Arts and Culture Festival, YIRRAMBOI, consumed the city for 10 spectacular days with performances, visual art, installations, workshops, storytelling, and Black activism.

Running from May 4 to 14, the festival was all about celebrating Black love, joy, and excellence, and as many as 300 First Nations artists were involved in celebrating and sharing their stories, in various spaces around the city.

Alongside being a festival for all to come and celebrate together, YIRRAMBOI is also about looking to the future, and this stems from its name which means “tomorrow” in the local languages of the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung people of the Kulin Nations.

YIRRAMBOI is more than just a festival, it’s a platform for voice, change, development and exchange,” YIRRAMBOI co-lead creative Serene Stewart said.


A vision of a future where our culture and shared history is respectfully celebrated by all.


To launch the event, a celebratory opening night was held at dedicated event hub The Uncle Jack Charles, which is located in North Melbourne’s Meat Market, and served to honour the beloved late Aboriginal actor, activist, and Elder. 

Following the launch, YIRRAMBOI colead creative J-Maine Beezley said they were “incredibly excited to have opened the festival with such a strong message: ‘First Nations culture is ever evolving and absolutely thriving’.”

The opening weekend began with headlining event Barring Yanabul, meaning “we all walk the path” in Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung language, which featured more than 40 free art, music, dance, and theatre events.

As well, there was a live music line-up of First Nations performers for the Uncle Archie Roach Block Party. Artists included storyteller and rapper Kobie Dee, Triple J host Nooky, RnB singer songwriter Keely, and musician and dancer Amos Roach.

North Melbourne’s Arts House also got onboard for the opening weekend, with the premiere of international dance works Kisiskâciwanis, created by Canadian First Nations choreographers Jeanette Kotowich and Lara Kramer, and dance works by local artists Brent Watkins and Jada Narkle.

A stellar line-up continued to present itself at the Meat Market, with all-female comedy spectacle Funny Tiddas by Kimmie Lovegrove offering up the laughs, and sold-out performance A Night With an Angry Black Woman giving platform to some of the country’s leading First Nations voices.

The First Nations fashion runway show of TOMORROW: The Experience also showcased a diverse display of bold First Nations designs, and played with the concept of a post-apocalyptic world through sharing strong messaging and dialogue around survival and resistance. •

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