Celebrating women at NAIDOC in the City – Interview with 33 Creative Co-Director Mayrah Sonter

Jannawi Dance Clan - Credit Joseph Mayers City of Sydney

Jannawi Dance Clan. Photo credit: Joseph Mayers City of Sydney

The City of Sydney’s annual NAIDOC in the City event is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and their continued importance. Create NSW spoke to Mayrah Sonter, a proud Wiradjuri woman, who holds her culture and background, and growing up in Sydney’s Redfern close to her heart.

Mayrah is the Co-Founder and Co-Director at 33 Creative who produce NAIDOC in the City on behalf of the City of Sydney.

This year, the National NAIDOC Committee announced the theme Because of Her, We Can! – what does the theme mean to you, and how will the theme be reflected in the event?

It is my personal favourite theme to date! It is so inspiring and an opportunity to stop and thank all the amazing Aboriginal women who have shaped me into the woman I am today. The event has been designed to bring in and celebrate as many Aboriginal women as possible – women’s art, female performers, female Elders, women leading the weaving. These are just some of the ways we will celebrate women.

Can you tell us why celebrating NAIDOC Week is important?

NAIDOC Week is one of our [33 Creative] favourite weeks of the year. It’s our chance to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultures in all their amazingness. We’re so honoured to be able to produce the NAIDOC in the City event for Sydney to come along and experience all that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia has to offer, especially through the lens of Because of Her, We Can!

What does celebrating NAIDOC Week in Sydney mean for the local community?

It means many things to many people. For me, it’s about connection, celebration, education, and community.

Can you tell our readers what to expect from the day at your event?

So many things. Here are some of the highlights:

  • watch live music and dance performances on the main stage, including Electric Fields, Mission Songs Project, Sue Ray, Microwave Jenny and Muggera dancers;
  • wander through the art gallery – curated by Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative and APY Art Centre Collective – and see works by established and emerging female artists. Pictures by Sydney based photographer Barbara McGrady will be on display. Check out the stunning new artwork by local Aboriginal artist Shannon Foster that features on the City’s street banners flying during NAIDOC Week and beyond;
  • enjoy a feast from the earth oven – a traditional method of cooking in an earth oven pit, using hot rocks and natural materials to seal in the heat and slow cook food for hours. Learn how to make tasty lemon myrtle biscuits and barbecue kangaroo fillet with Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo. Sample mouth-watering bites from a range of food stalls throughout the day;
  • keep the kids busy these school holidays by visiting the kids’ zone, which includes dance, storytelling, canoe making, art and weaving workshops as well as zoo animals and face painting. Sporting activities include Indigenous games, soccer, netball, hockey and AFL;
  • explore the market stalls selling art, craft, jewellery, clothes and gourmet produce;
  • visit the cultural hub to learn about the City of Sydney’s Eora Journey and borrow books from the library’s Koori collection. Explore exhibits from ANTaR, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Australian Museum, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, University of Technology Sydney, the University of Sydney’s Healing Our Spirit Worldwide, Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education and Training, the Australian Film Television & Radio School, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, the State Library of NSW, University of NSW, the National Film and Sound Archive and the Indigenous Youth Climate Action Network.