Ngethn o' - Kowanyama Arts and Culture Festival 2019

By The Kowanyama Project

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A little bit of context

Kowanyama will be hosting its inaugural arts festival during the early dry season (1 - 6 July) of 2019.

The festival will honour and celebrate the cultural heritage of its ancestors and their children with a series of film nights, presentations, exhibitions, traditional ceremony, dance, community art and other cultural activities. Festival events will be organised to maximise opportunities for the participation of youth.

The festival is seen as a progression of Kowanyama’s key principle of the transmission of cultural knowledge of its ancestors and their children through the use of new media. These are the founding principles that have led to the establishment of Kowanyama’s campaign to establish the Kowanyama Culture and Research Centre and the proposal to develop a future state of the art indigenous culture and research centre to house a museum collection.

Kowanyama Collection is now considered to be of national significance and one of the largest of its kind in Australia (2008, Palmer, A, Kowanyama Collections, A Statement of National Significance). Community based planning that led to community action began over a decade ago. (2000, Smith, N, Establishing an Arts Movement and Cultural Centre in Kowanyama, A report for the Kowanyama Aboriginal Land and Natural Resources Management Office) followed later by a second paper (2006, Smith, N, Keeping Culture, In preparation for a negotiations table (Arts and Culture), for Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council).
The campaign to achieve the vision continues.

But there’s a problem

We have a number of dedicated and interested volunteers and workers who are committed to making this project happen in the best possible way but because Kowanyama is a remote community transport costs and getting helpers there isn’t easy and is expensive! So, in order to bring in volunteers and all our festival workshop gear, we need to hire 4wd vehicles to use in getting there and back from the east coast and to drive around in so that we can help facilitate program activities while we're there. We also need to fly a couple of folks up to NQ so that they can join the road crew team!

We also need to purchase a quality digital monitor, suitable for the incorporation of documentary media into the exhibition, and a couple of solid hard drives to use in storing and moving around audio visual material for use in our new media workshops where we plan to create a series of short films featuring archival and contemporary material in collaboration with Kowanyama youth and adults.

Here’s what we’re doing about it

We have been successful in getting some of the costs of the festival covered by a Queensland Arts grant. We know we have some shortfalls in that so we are looking for support from friends and followers on social media (and beyond) to help us out.

A website, WOVEN TRACKS has been developed to promote key messages and stories about our festival Ngethn o’ as part of our campaign to fundraise for a proposed new state of the art Culture and Research Centre.
The facebook page is now running at over 4000 likes. Shared postings with will also help involve community and inform everyone during the development of our festival. This will all help in raising the profile of Kowanyama Project and its future fundraising efforts.

We are also approaching regional airlines about the donation of airfares.

And how it’s going to change the world

We are hosting an exciting week long project of events and activities including:

Exhibition of Kowanyama Collection museum objects: Public showing of recently acquired historical and cultural heritage objects.
Curated by Viv Sinnamon.

Exhibition of historical photographs: A selection of images from the Kowanyama Collection Photo archive exhibited highlighting Kowanyama and Mitchell River bush and Mission life 1894 to Present.
Curated by Viv Sinnamon.

Formal Opening and viewing of the John Atherton Collection of Mitchell River Woomeras: A traditional formal funerary opening ceremony for a collection of woomeras acquired in 2017 from the Atherton Family Collection, Brisbane. This is considered to be a significant historical event for North Queensland. A representative of the Atherton family and members of the Atherton Tablelands Aboriginal Community are being invited to participate in the ceremony with Kowanyama Community members. Coordinated by Viv Sinnamon.

Formal meeting and welcome ceremony for the return of a small iron signal cannon: Taken 100 years ago by a roving pastoralist from Nar (Frigate story place) near the mouth of the South Mitchell River. This historic and culturally significant object has been recently repatriated from the QLD Museum the result of 39 years of discussions and lobbying by Kowanyama.

Exhibition of past and current artworks: An exhibition of artworks both contemporary and traditional art and cultural objects.
Curated by Bernadette Boscacci.

Exhibition Catalogue: A catalogue of the combined exhibitions produced by the curators for distribution locally.

Cultural Craft Workshop: A collaborative work produced by Kowanyama women and youth showcasing the use of modern (recycled) materials in the production of a large format, contemporary cultural sculpture / public art work. This woven artwork will be showcased at Townsville's Strand Ephemera, August 2019.
Coordinated by Bernadette Boscacci.

Film nights: A retrospective showcase of films and content featuring Kowanyama perspectives including “My Land, my Place, my People” (1989)Changing Channels” (1989) and “Running the River” (1991) as well as recently found raw footage of Kowanyama from the 1980s, “Strong Women” (200?), Awin Udnum Project highlights and the late Alma Wason’s launch of her bush medicine book, Uw Oykangand Oy berr 1980-2014. Facilitated by Mark Weaver and the other curators.

Two other upcoming significant events include:

September 2018 to 2019: The installation of a scale model traditional wet season messmate bark shelter and the development of multimedia support materials in a joint production by UMI Arts, Bush TV and Kowanyama Culture and Research Centre. The installation will be exhibited April through July in the new Cairns gallery of UMI Arts to promote cultural arts, transmission of cultural knowledge and to promote Kowanyama Collection and Kowanyama Project fundraising campaign. Media outputs documenting construction will contribute to Kowanyama Collections media Archive, Kowanyama Community education activities and add context to the UMI Arts exhibit.

November 2018 to February 2019: Construction of a wet season messmate shelter in the Kowanyama Cultural Centre grounds in preparation for Kowanyamas’ festival. Video documentation will be linked with the UMI Arts shelter installation project.

The schedule of events for this project is ambitious but under the coordinated guidance of a skilled team of dedicated people who are willing to give their time and skills, it is achievable. It will form a significant and inspirational event for Kowanyama Community in their calendar of events for 2019.

Events will encourage a coming together of neighbouring communities in this remote area of Cape York Australia. All current events and activities are working towards the long term vision of the development of a state of the art Kowanyama Culture and Research Centre housing a collection that is both an asset to Kowanyama and the region.

Ngethn o’ will bring a whole lot of different community groups and agencies together in both taking part and just plain helping out before, during and after the festival. Ngethn o’ is bringing together people in the spirit of the celebration of Kowanyama with the theme of healthy country, culture and lifestyle. Everyone will be working together to create this inaugural festival, on country.

So far, this is the mob helping in one way or another to make Ngethn o’ happen and for everyone to be part of it and have a great time.

Come join Kowanyama create this very special happening that could well develop into an annual event.

Partners to date include:

Kowanyama Arts and Cultural Centre

Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council

Abm elgoring ambung

Kowanyama State School

Bush TV


Woolloongabba Art Gallery

UMI Arts

Indigenous Regional Arts Development Fund

Queensland Museum

University of Queensland Anthropology Museum

Viv Sinnamon

Mark Weaver

Bernadette Boscacci

Golden Bee Collective

Out There Kowanyama

You can join us

Ngethn o’ needs to raise $12000.00.

Kowanyama is in a remote area of Cape York so basically we need a lot of help with transport to get there and to get people and gear around for the festival. Can you help ?

Donations are needed to cover the costs of:

$4800 = 2x 4WD vehicles for 2 weeks for the 1800 km round trip from Townsville

$1000 = Fuel costs including 18 hours driving time to and from Kowanyama

$400 = 2 x portable hard drives and USBs so as to be able to share media in community

$1000 = print costs for Festival t shirts

$1000 = Sundry consumables, mail and freight costs

$3800 = 2 x return airfares ex Brisbane

And here’s some amazing perks for supporting us that you can’t live without

Donors of $60 or more will be sent a festival pack that will include a copy of the festival program, a Ngethn o’ t shirt, and exhibition catalogue following the festival.

With the donor’s permission we would like to acknowledge your contribution at the festival in the exhibition/museum gallery, and posted on our social media, Woven Tracks and Kowanyama Project facebook pages.

An Honour Board at Ngethn o’ is something we are planning to create for display during the festival. You have an option to be included on this (contributors’ names and town of origin).

If you wish, you can provide us with a photo too, so that we can all see your face at the festival with us. We also appreciate those who wish to make anonymous donations.

You will be supporting something special for Kowanyama and we want to make the festival the best it can be.

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Team Members

Ngethn o'


Mark Vincent Weaver