For Rhoda Roberts, SOH Head of Indigenous Programming, Homeground is an experience all Australians can share.

Homeground is a celebration of the very best First Nations artists from Australia and around the world. Limelight‘s Jo Litson spoke to the Sydney Opera House’s Head of Indigenous Programming about what audiences can expect at this year’s festival.

How much has the event evolved since last year?

Over the last year we have increased the footprint of the event and incorporated the project Dance Rites. It’s bigger and better than ever. It’s all about access and encouraging as many Australians to have an immersive experience with First Nations culture at the Opera House – you will be surprised!

Brisbane band Dub Marine will be at Homeground

Which events and artists are you particularly excited about this year?

This year we have looked at artists and their connections to each other and country. East Journey join us from the homelands of East Arnhem Land, they are also connected as family to one of Australia’s most phenomenal bands Yothu Yindi, remember their song Treaty?  Joining us from PNG is Airileke and the PNG Drummers with their incredible log drumming, Papuan chants and atmospheric sound-scapes. This is the new sound of urban Melanesia. From Canada we hear from Anishinaabe man Leonard Sumner, he has been called one of the most important, vital new voices of the Canadian roots music scene. From New Zealand Trinity Roots join-the-dots between head-nodding reggae, slow-burning funk and jazz adventurism to form undeniably Indigenous Waiata and we are incredibly excited to again have the unforgettable Dubmarine. When you see this band live, you know you’ll walk away with a grin on your face and sweat on your brow. I’m also excited about the traditional Maori Healers – Te Kopere, it’s like yoga for the mind.

Yuin Ghudjargah performing as part of Dance Rites at the 2015 Homeground festival, photo © Prudence Upton

I assume Dance Rites will be one of the highlights. How many participants will there be this year?

We’ll have 160 participants dancing this year. It’s the highlight of our community program – it’s exciting that we have groups joining us from as far as WA’s Palm Island and the regions of far North Queensland and the Torres Strait islands. Dance Rites aims to safeguard and revitalise vanishing cultural practices – language, dance, skin markings and instruments – to ensure they are shared from one generation to the next.

What do you hope to achieve with Homeground?

Homeground is about creating an experience that all Australians can share. The festival recognises our point of difference and most importantly the advantage we have as First Peoples. It is ours, our stories, our culture, our art and simply us. We are unique as the oldest living race on the globe and we must see our culture as an advantage. Most of all, I love being able to create a moment where some of the very best professional First Nations artists from across the globe can come together.

Rhoda Roberts, Head of Indigenous Programming at the Sydney Opera House, photo © Daniel Boud

What do you hope audience and artists will take away from the experience?

I hope that audiences connect with the spirituality present within our culture and pause for a moment to experience everything on offer, from the food, to the dance and the digital storytelling. As we celebrate Homeground, it’s our artists who continue a new form of the oral process delivering stories, through dance, music, and the spoken word along with discussions, and workshops that highlight age-old traditions. The collaborative process that our knowledge keepers, song men and women continue to aspire to, is reflected in our program and we are honoured that we can acknowledge and pay respects to the many from our diverse communities who will join us on the day.

Homeground is at the Sydney Opera House October 8 and 9

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