Saturday 18 January 2020

Kipli Paywuta Lumi: Into the Tasmanian Bush with MONA FOMA

On this trip I’m being hosted by Tourism Tasmania and MONA FOMA.

I’m in Launceston, Tasmania, for a few days, taking part in the MONA FOMA festival and enjoying various arts and food highlights of the city and the region.

Last night I had one of the more interesting cultural experiences I’d ever experienced, taking part in the Kipli Paywuta Lumi event.

A celebration of the culture of Tasmania’s Aboriginal people - known as Palawa - it saw us first being transported in a bus up to the heights of the forest outside Launceston. Dropped off in a car park on the edge of the bush, we were asked to walk quietly through the trees, following the path marked by ochre-painted trunks.

It took about fifteen minutes up and down slopes to reach our destination. I suppose the point of walking in silence was to let the bush calm us down, to help us make the transition from city buzz to nature’s slower rhythms.

On arrival at the campsite we saw this - a ‘bush hut’ constructed in the tradition once used by the local Indigenous people, though this version was larger than those and employed modern materials.

Sitting within on wallaby and possum skins, we were given a Welcome to Country in the Palawa language, which has been undergoing a revival in recent years. With the lowering sun shining onto the outside of the hut, it was an atmospheric setting for the welcome.  

We moved to a nearby campfire where an interesting array of traditional foodstuffs was cooking - possum, muttonbird and wallaby among them. We were served oysters here as we heard more about the project, and from shells drank beverages flavoured with native herbs such as pepperberry.

Back in the tent, our food was served on bark onto beds of ferns, and we ate in the traditional way - using our fingers! First up was fish (pinungana in the local language), flathead in this case. Very tasty, with a hint of lemon from the spices used.

I’ll spare you the photos of what the fish and other food looked like when we had finished with it! It was a great experience sharing food this way; among our groups of five or six, it promoted discussion and the hut was soon filled with sociable talk. The event had promised “a moment of mid-festival calm”, and it delivered. 

As the event was delivered by Palawa people in partnership with others, and drew deeply on Tasmanian Aboriginal traditions, it helped keep that culture alive and reinterpreted for the present day. I was very pleased to be a part of it - at school as a kid I was told that Tasmania’s Indigenous people had died out, and I couldn’t be more delighted to experience the living contradiction of that lie.

Dropped back at the Festival Hub in Launceston, I stepped inside and partook of another drink involving Tasmanian native ingredients - proof that MONA FOMA can embrace all traditions.

The Kipli Paywuta Lumi event is sold out, but you can visit the campsite during the day; and find out more about this and other events at the MONA FOMA website  MONA FOMA continues to Monday 20 January 2020.

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