Immerse yourself in one of the world’s oldest and richest cultures at Wardarnji 2021, a spectacular evening of Nyoongar dance, performance and storytelling returning to Fremantle Arts Centre on Saturday 13 November.

After being postponed in 2020 due to COVID, this much-anticipated event will bring together more than 100 dancers performing traditional songs and dances alongside contemporary original works, magnificent puppetry, fires burning well into the night and an array of markets showcasing the talents of local Aboriginal makers.

Directed by WA Aboriginal Person of the Year Karla Hart, Wardarnji offers a rare opportunity to experience the diversity of dance, song, language and story from 14 different clan groups across the Nyoongar nation – celebrating this ancient and venerable culture.

According to Karla Hart,

“On Nyoongar country we are so empowered by dance and have many pioneers that have blazed a trail for decades – supporting and encouraging us as we go along on our cultural journeys, strengthening and reclaiming what is our birthright and bloodline.”

“Wardarnji is a direct representation of all of that. It is not only for our Indigenous community but for our non-Indigenous family that love to come share with us, who have the same sense of pride and love for culture and dance. It is a beautiful way of coming together, to feel as one, as this is a culture that belongs to the country that we all live on.”

Wardarn is the Nyoongar word for sea and in 2021 will inspire much of what the audience will see and experience including the exquisite puppetry and more organic and immersive staging referencing our coastal sand dunes.

Merging contemporary dance with live puppetry, a highlight of Wardarnji will be the sharing of the Nyoongar story of Waarlitj the Eagle, Chiriger the Grey Wren and how the blue wren got its colours. The puppets will be made with the help of the community via a series of workshops held at Fremantle Arts Centre facilitated by puppeteer Rachel Riggs and Nyoongar artist Nerolie Bynder.

Other highlights include a dynamic contemporary dance piece presented in collaboration with ZAP Circus, the award-winning Western Australian performance company known for blending acrobatics, fire, pyrotechnics and comedy.

Collaborating with Karla Hart on Wardarnji this year is celebrated Nyoongar artist Mark Howett. A multi-Greenroom and Helpmann Award winner, Mark has worked as a lighting, video, set designer, artistic director and production manager, on over five hundred national and international productions.

Joining us as Master of Ceremonies for the evening are Nyoongar community leaders Olman Walley and Thierra Clanton. The director of Boorloo Aboriginal Cultural Experiences, Olman is an acclaimed performer and storyteller. Thierra is an environmental scientist and seasoned MC who is passionate about sharing Nyoongar stories, history and knowledge.

Fremantle Arts Centre Director Anna Reece commented,

“Aboriginal culture is a living, breathing, and edifying force in Walyalup (Fremantle). The Whadjuk people have long danced, sang and passed on their culture here, observing and following the seasons and listening to and respecting country.”

“Wardarnji is a generous sharing of that culture, a nationally significant celebration of the world’s oldest culture and language, and we are honoured to once again produce and present it here at Fremantle Arts Centre.”

We invite you to bring a picnic, browse the market and food stalls showcasing the talents of local Nyoongar makers, artists and small businesses, and immerse yourself in an evening of strong proud Nyoongar culture performed by more than 14 dance groups.

Event Information

This is a free family friendly event, suitable for all ages. We recommend arriving early to secure a spot.

  • BYO picnic blankets
  • Food and beverages available to purchase, no BYO alcohol
  • Very limited seating provided
  • Gates open at 5pm
  • Performance begins at 6:30pm

Media contact

Rosamund Brennan, [email protected], 08 9432 9565

Images: Wardarnji 2019. Photography by Pixel Poetry