Lake of Mystery celebrated in Weereewa Festival

Painter Ian Roberston (l) and sculptor Jeffrey Frith (r)  with Robertson’s impression of Weereewa

Painter Ian Roberston (l) and sculptor Jeffrey Frith (r) with Robertson’s impression of Weereewa

“WEEREEWA – a Festival of Lake George” is a biennial (more or less, as its founder Elizabeth Cameron Dalman conceded) event celebrating one of our most awesome local landmarks, known as Lake George, but increasingly known by its Ngunnawal name, “Weereewa”.

The 2014 festival was unveiled at Canberra Museum and Gallery entirely, festival chair Barbie Robinson boasted, without stilt walkers or power-point presentations. That she said, was not just because it was all done on a shoestring, but because its emphasis was on people and “this remarkable landscape”, as the month-long program of dance, music, writing and visual arts events taking place over February and March in Canberra, Bungendore and the lake region was unveiled.

Robinson added with emphasis that the Weereewa Festival committee thought “more in handfuls or dozens” than the thousands often demanded for major events. They were proud of its record of intellectual rigour and engagement. In her view, nowadays quality was “falling too often off the arts landscape.”

After Mirramu dance theatre member Janine Proost wove her way throughout the guests, artistic director and Lake George resident, Cameron Dalman – Robinson told those present that  the first festival had taken place in 1999 and that it was “quite incredible how many artists have responded to this environment, all over Australia”.

As well, she said, many local people in the community who had their own special stories about the lake.

Wearing her dance hat, she said her Mirramu Dance Company would celebrate the lake in dance in an international showcase also involving dancers from Malaysia and Taiwan. Consistent with Weereewa’s reputation for vanishing from time to time, she said they would dance on the lakebed on March 23 in a performance called “Disappearing”.

Argentine-born pianist Marcela Fiorillo, who was commissioned by the festival to create a new work around the lake, spoke movingly about the “big empty space… with a kind of magic” and its initial impact on her.  As well, she described the collaboration she had enjoyed with local indigenous artist, Duncan Smith, who had rendered some of her words into the local language for  the introductions to each of  the four parts in “The Weereewa Suite”,  which she would perform for the first time at the Larry Sitsky Recital Room, ANU School of Music, on March 14.

Artists Ian Robertson, Jenni Kemarre Martiniello, Anita McIntyre and Jeffrey Frith were on hand to explain the exhibitions at The Bungendore Wood Works and the Goulburn Regional Gallery that were inspired by the life of the lake, while Nowra artist, Lissa-Jane de Sailles, talked about a residency at Mirramu and the basket-weaving workshop she would give at Gorman House’s Bogong theatre on March 30, the last day of festival.

A distinctive feature of the festival, we heard, would be the literary events, one by local writers, Barbara Baikie and Michelle Johnston in Tres Bon restaurant and another by journos Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis at the Wood Works café.

As is usual, the festival will also incorporate concerts and a talkfest called “All you ever wanted to know about Lake George,” hosted by author Graeme Barrow.

“Weereewa – a Festival of Lake George” until March 30. Bookings to weereewa.iwannaticket.com.au and program details at weereewafestival.org

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