Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) launched Yawar, a cultural mapping project, exploring and celebrating the songs and dance of First Nations communities across Queensland on Friday 7 December.

This ambitious community project, led by QPAC with support from partner organisations the Maria Vasas Foundation and the University of Queensland School of Social Science, aims to map the memories of Song men and Song women and develop physical and digital resources that promote and support the cultural knowledge underpinning the performances of song and dance practitioners.

‘Yawar’ is a shared word between Yuggera and Yugarapul, Kabi Kabi/Gubbi Gubbi and Butchulla Languages that means ‘to sing and dance’. The first phase of this three-year project is the launch of the digital platform, which shares the stories of Elders and respected persons describing their personal journeys of learning cultural songs and how they pass on their knowledge to the next generation. Yawar will expand as more holders of song contribute to the project.

Yawar, a cultural mapping project emerged in response to Elders and community members wanting to share the cultural strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance and song in Queensland, and document and share with the wider Australian society the processes and protocols that underpin the Yawar – a gathering performances.

Yawar – a gathering was the closing ceremony of QPAC’s Clancestry, A Celebration of Country, a festival recognising the diversity of First Nations culture with live performances, exhibitions, workshops and more. The Clancestry events between 2013 and 2015 culminated in the coming together of Traditional Owners, Elders, dancers and Song men and Song women for the largest gathering of clan groups in the area since settlement.

The Yawar digital platform was launched on Friday 7 December at the Meeanjin Markets in Brisbane, a curated artisan market showcasing authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts, crafts, performances, food and experiences, highlighting local Queensland creators.

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch said Yawar, a cultural mapping project will showcase knowledge of First Nations cultures and cultural history and help connect audiences across Queensland. “Yawar will be an invaluable resource, and will further the reach of First Nations stories and performances,” Minister Enoch said. “Here in Queensland we have a rich creative and cultural history and it is wonderful to be able to share this with audiences through this amazing project.”

QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said Yawar, a cultural mapping project builds upon the Centre’s longstanding commitment to connecting audiences with the important stories of Queensland. “QPAC recognises the significant role First Nations peoples have contributed and continue to contribute to Queensland’s historical, creative and cultural landscapes,” said Mr Kotzas. “We are proud to be working in partnership with First Nations communities in Queensland in recording and profiling the importance of their stories, songs and culture through Yawar, a cultural mapping project. I encourage all Australians to connect with and take pride in the arts and culture of our First Nations people with QPAC over the coming years.”

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