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Olympic Arts Festival opens
20 August 2000
SYDNEY — In the chill before day break, a crowd assembled on the beach of La Perouse near Botany Bay. At first light, they witnessed the performance of Tubowgule (pronounced ty-bah-gule) or The Meeting of the Waters.
This was the first of three performances in a day-long indigenous Australian welcoming ceremony, ushering in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival.
The historic beach, steeped in significance as the first point of contact for Australia's original inhabitants and European settlers, provided a stage for Aboriginal singer and actor Deborah Cheetham.
Local indigenous musicians playing traditional instruments around a campfire accompanied her haunting tones. A raft fashioned from branches and leaves was ceremoniously lit offshore signalling a dramatic end to the first performance.
The second took place at noon in the Botanical Gardens of central Sydney. The gardens were once a place of male initiation for the Kayimai (now known as Manly) people.
Treated to a lively display of ceremonial dance, spectators were submerged in the magical rhythms of painted performers and the raw sounds of indigenous Australian instruments. This ceremony paid respect to the ancestral traditions in ceremonial performance of dance, body painting, storytelling and sculpture.
As dusk set in, the third and most spectacular of the welcoming ceremonies came alive on the steps of the Sydney Opera House at Bennelong Point.
In the presence of Aboriginal elders, the air reverberated with the deep, melodic dirge of the didgeridoo and was permeated with the sweet aroma of burning eucalyptus from 44 gallon drums.
This performance of Tubowgule fused ancient and modern indigenous cultures in a banquet of dreamlike dance, music and traditional singing, as different saltwater clans came together in the Opera House forecourt.
Stephen Page, the artistic director and choreographer of Sydney's Bangarra Dance Theatre directed the fabulous, climactic finale, echoing the traditions of Sydney's original saltwater people.
The three welcoming ceremonies showcased the spiritual richness of Australia's indigenous culture, a perfect way to usher in what promises to be a unique and electric Arts Festival.
Consider the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival welcomed.