By Sunny Liu
Melbourne Festival kicked off at Federation Square on October 5 with smoke, dances and songs brought by the traditional owners of the land.
Tanderrum, meaning ceremony, is the meeting of the five Aboriginal clans of the Kulin nation, which had not been practiced in Melbourne since 1835 until it was brought to Melbourne Festival in 2013.
Federation Square was turned into a cultural hub shared by the original custodians of the country and new immigrants.
Tanderrum was followed with a series of arts and cultural activities, exhibitions and shows as part of the biggest celebration of Melbourne.
Clan members from Dja Dja Wurrung, Wurundjeri, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung and Wadawurrung practised for six months to bring out the performance.
Traditionally, Tanderrum is a diplomatic and ritual exchange of gifts and ideas among the Kulin people. It was also performed as a “welcome to country” ritual.
Melbourne Festival director Jonathan Halloway said the festival would be a melting pot of traditional and modern cultures.
“The first words spoken at the festival should be the first people of the land and final part of the festival will be multicultural artists and the recently arrived and the newest communities,” he said.
“The scale of the festival runs from 6000-year-old culture to absolutely modern fusion. I think that’s the scale the festival has to embrace because we are the city’s international festival.”
Mr Halloway also said Federation Square was the perfect venue for cultural events like Tanderrum.
“Federation Square has so rapidly become one of the world’s greatest civic spaces where people gather to commiserate, celebrate or meet. The festival should be all about, and for, Melbourne and that’s why we have it here,” he said.
Elder of the Jaara tribe, Cheryl Bourke, said the performance showcased the indigenous culture to the wider Melbourne community.
“It’s an uplifting event, showing everyone our culture. Even the young kids are learning to dance. It’s fantastic to have all the Kulin nations come together,” Ms Bourke said.
Dja Dja Wurrung tribe member Thomas Harrison performed with his 11-year-old son Matthew Clare, who dances regularly in the eastern region and said Tanderrum was the largest performance he had ever done.
“A lot of people showed how much they respect our culture by coming here,” Matthew said.
“It’s a fantastic event to not only be with them all and to share with the other members of the Kulin Nation,” Mr Harrison said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Housing and Disability Martin Foley attended the ceremony and danced with the indigenous performers.
Melbourne Festival runs from October 6 to 23 across various locations in the CBD and surrounding suburbs.