27 August 2021

Giiyong Festival cancelled, River of Art goes virtual as virus fallout continues

| Albert McKnight
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An Aboriginal cultural and arts festival people are still talking about, Giiyong is on in 2020. Photo: David Rogers

Duurunu Miru and Gadhu Dancers perform at the 2018 Giiyong Festival. The festival was cancelled in 2020 and now 2021 due to the COVID-19 situation. Photo: David Rogers.

The COVID-19 outbreak in NSW has continued to impact the South Coast, wreaking havoc on two of the region’s much-awaited arts festivals.

The Giiyong Festival near Eden has been cancelled and while Eurobodalla’s River of Art Festival will no longer be going ahead as a live event it will, instead, be virtual.

Earlier this month organisers delivered the sad news that the Giiyong Festival which celebrates Indigenous Australian culture, was not going ahead this year. It had also been cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus.

“Although we are disappointed about not being able to deliver Giiyong Festival this year, Twofold Aboriginal Corporation’s main interest is to keep our vulnerable community safe,” the corporation’s manager of cultural inclusion Alison Simpson said.

The festival’s project manager Jazz Williams from South East Arts, said the festival had generated a huge amount of interest and organisers had been expecting large crowds from across NSW and further afield.

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“We are working towards an alternative to the 9 October event and we ask our supporters to keep following us on social media for updates and to spare a thought for artists all over the country right now who are dealing with daily cancellations,” she said.

The River of Art has also announced it cannot hold its live events due to current restrictions, but will instead showcase the Eurobodalla’s vibrant arts community online.

“We will run a virtual festival showcasing many of the amazing 120 events we had programmed including painting, textiles, woodwork, sculpture, performance, music, film and poetry, ” the festival’s co-chair Di Jay said.

The 120 events meant the festival had planned a “blockbuster” live festival this year, she said, but the virtual festival meant people could still engage with artists’ works.

A main feature is the arts directory, introduced at last year’s festival, which will showcase works by the region’s artists who were to have opened their studios during the festival.

“You’ll get a glimpse of some of the artists in the region who span a huge array of art,” Ms Jay said, saying there was everything from 3D workers and jewellers to sculptors.

After heading to the virtual festival’s website, viewers can follow links to the artists’ own sites to see more of their artworks or give them a call.

READ ALSO Emerging artists engineer their own exhibition in a time of COVID-19

There are already links to online conversations with some artists.

“Having access to creative artists and being able to view their art virtually means people can do it wherever they live in the country,” Ms Jay said.

“This means people more broadly can get a sense of who we are and what we do.”

Art-lovers can also look ahead to next year as the dates for the 2022 River of Art have already been announced.

“We are already planning a spectacular River of Art Festival from 16-25 September 2022 featuring lively arts programs as well as the exciting Luminous: Art After Dark event with projections, site illumination and loads of colour, sound and activity at Riverside Park,” Ms Jay said.

The Virtual River of Art Festival, and its arts directory, will be launched on 17 September. You can also learn more about the Giiyong Festival online.

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