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THE LAURA Aboriginal Dance Festival is the longest-running Aboriginal cultural festival in Australia. In 2007 it had its 30th anniversary in Cape York. The celebration showcases the culture of Cape York Peninsula’s aboriginal people through the performances of song and dance. In addition to being an educational experience for festival goers, it’s also an opportunity for aboriginal families — many of which were removed from the area — to gather and meet new and old family members and friends.
The festival runs from June 21-23 this year.
The Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, held every two years in the tiny town of Laura in North Queensland, Australia, is as much about education as it is about celebration.
One of the largest gatherings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia, the three-day event is a significant pilgrimage for more than 500 performers and up to 5,000 spectators.
The festival begins with a traditional "Welcome to Country" and handing back of the previous winner’s shield, and culminates in the ultimate dance off.
For all ages
Proud performers of all ages, who have travelled from remote Cape York communities such as Aurukun, Bamaga, Coen, and Lockhart River, take turns to shake, stomp, and clap in a new slice of history for generations to come.
The white clay and ochre body paint smeared on the dancers' bodies is not just about artistic expression. The lines and designs are a means of communication, of rules, traditions, and stories – just like the dance itself.
There are no clappers or 'woo' girls to contend with at this festival. A respectful hush blankets the crowd - an audible anticipation - pierced by the distinctive trills of clapsticks and sounds of rumbling didgeridoos. The Dreamtime stories are translated through dance, percussion, and song.
On this sacred ground, families meet kin - new and old - and pass on their history. It’s where descendants of Aboriginal people removed from the area return to learn of their ancestry.
This land, around 140 kilometers west of Cooktown, is a respected and sacred bora ground (ceremony site) and has provided the stage for this important gathering for 20 years.
The township of Laura lives amongst some of the oldest and most pristine rock art, listed by UNESCO as one of the top 10 sites in the world. Selected sites, like Giant Horse Gallery – named so because of the six-meter-long horse that dominates the sandstone cliff overhang – can be accessed through tours with local Aboriginal guides.