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Smoke signals good karma for start of Brisbane Festival


If there’s ever been a year when people have felt a desire to reset, refocus and cleanse, it’s 2020, and thankfully, southeast Queensland residents will have the chance to do just that this evening as part of a smoking ceremony to officially launch this year’s Brisbane Festival.

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Jumoo – a citywide smoking ceremony that will simultaneously take place at South Bank’s cultural forecourt and Roma Street Parkland from 6pm – will be conducted under the direction and custodianship of Yuggera and Turrbal man Shannon Ruska, creative director of Tribal Experiences.

The event, which will include smoke signals being sent from other locations around the city, will also be streamed online via the Brisbane Festival’s Facebook page for those who can’t make it along to the socially distanced event in person.

“There’s a couple aspects to it,” Ruska told InQueensland. “At the start of a festival, having the traditional owners do that … it puts out some good karma for the whole festival across the city.

“The second part to it is we’ve been in COVID-19 and some people have been a bit down in the dumps, some people have been in a terrible way with jobs and housing and all these kind of issues at hand.

“By us – as the traditional people of the land – beginning that ceremony of positivity, hopefully that could spread across the whole city and further afield as well.”

Brisbane Festival creative director Louise Bezzina told InQueensland it was “an important way to open the festival”.

“The whole point of it is to cleanse and reset refocus start again,” Bezzina said.

“To have it on such a scale for people to either view online or in person, and really have a sense that we are moving forward with positivity, with love, with a sense of reconciliation, compassion and kindness – that is why this event is has been created, and it’s a wonderful way to kick off the festival.”

In June, Bezzina told InQueensland she took her role as a cultural leader seriously, saying, “when you get into a position like this you can’t just do the talk, you have to walk the walk and lead with real action”.

“There are very few positions that have the ability to do what I’m doing and we have to do everything we can to support the next generation, to ensure that we have an inclusive program that has a deep connection to our First People and that that’s being led appropriately with the right kind of cultural protocol framework around it.”

Ruska praised Bezzina and the Brisbane Festival team for their meaningful engagement in the lead-up to the Jumoo ceremony.

“The most that we usually get is a quick Welcome to Country for one to two minutes and then we’ve got to hop off stage and get out of it in most places,” Ruska said.

“I think that we’ve only seen a fraction of what this Welcome to Country is about, the lighting of the smoke signals that we’ll see a Jumoo on is one of the parts of the old processes that have been in place for over 65,000 years, and we’re bringing that back so that not only our people can do it, but Brisbane can then understand how we do conduct business.”

Brisbane Festival officially starts tonight.  To view the full program of events, visit the Brisbane Festival website.

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