The Clan’s all here: QPAC gears up for a celebration of Country

The language and culture of First Nations artists will take centre stage at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in May with Clancestry – A Celebration of Country.

May 09, 2022, updated May 09, 2022

The festival showcases and celebrates First Nations arts, stories and cultural practices with a range of performances over the festival’s 50 events from May 13 to 28.

More than 130 First Nations staff feature across Clancestry’s programming from artists, to programming, production, marketing and content creation.

Performer Rochelle Pitt Watson is a registered nurse, and singer/songwriter. She said singing in language is “my therapy”.

“To actually be performing in Clancestry, it just feels like coming back home,” Rochelle said.

“Because for me this was our black arts. It wasn’t really recognised too much in Brisbane, we were always pushed to the side or just a little side act or something, but now having Clancestry here really showcases our mob, our culture, our talent, and it’s something to be proud of.

“You might even learn about the stories of the land that we’re walking on. The good stories, the stories of why this certain mountain is over there or why that the certain cluster of trees is there.

“Once you hear those stories, you really appreciate and respect that land a bit more that it’s actually living and breathing and alive, and you connect with it a bit differently than just walking on it to get to A to B. It’s funny, but there are always stories of the land.”

Rochelle’s Quandamooka, Meriam and Aboriginal Torres Strait heritage underly all of her songs and she hopes will bring some relief to festival goers as “covid stressed us all out”.

“I always portray that strong black woman,” she said.

“I want to look at bringing those endangered languages back in songs.

“It’s something I can record and leave here for the younger generations. My kids, my grandkids, and the community, if they ever want to learn about their culture, I don’t want them to say it’s a dying culture or anything like that. We’ve got the resources, we’ve got the energy and the willpower. We need to do things and act now on preserving what we have of our culture left.

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“This is the perfect platform to preserve and bring out our language. When you speak in Indigenous language, it’s a spirit connection. It’s a heartfelt connection, and it’s different.

“It has a beautiful, soft flow to it as well. It’s not an abrupt type of language. And doing that for me as a healing and a therapy, because my old people were stopped and not allowed to talk in it. It was seen as a sin, a bad thing.

“Just come and visit Clancestry. Come and spend this one day or one part of a time here and connect with the First peoples of this country and you two can connect as well to the country and the earth, land. I want to see you here.”

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch said she hopes Clancestry creates awareness of the rich history and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples and encourage conversations on the reconciliation.

“Clancestry’s theme of Celebration of Country will create awareness of the rich history and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and will encourage conversations on our reconciliation journey,” Ms Enoch said.

Most of the events will be free.

QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said Clancestry is the highlight of the centre’s year-round First Nations program.

“Long before QPAC was here, this stretch of the river was a place to gather, tell stories and exchange ideas so we have a responsibility to make QPAC a welcome place for First Nations people to create and share culture.”


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