Dust and Dancing to Celebrate Indigenous Australia

(Photo by Daniel Lin)

Every two years, there is a gathering in the Australian countryside like few you have ever seen. Out in this arid landscape under the unrelenting, ozone-piercing scrutiny of the sun, there comes a pulse. It beats steadily—like a heartbeat of the Earth—and as you get closer to the source, that pulse intensifies until it makes you feel like you are immersed in an oasis of raw spiritual energy.

This gathering is the widely known Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival in the North Queensland region of Australia. During this festival, Aboriginal groups from all over the region (and often times from around the country) get together for a weekend of heart-pounding, dirt-kicking excitement. I have to be honest here: dancing is one of my favorite activities, so when the opportunity arose for me to attend this festival, I was more excited than I can remember being in the five years that I’ve spent as a photojournalist.

Dancers of all ages get together and “kick the dirt” during this year’s Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Dance and Dust

At the surface, the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival is a chance for Aboriginal Australians, or “Traditional Landowners,” to showcase the dances of their people and engage in friendly competition. Performers range from infants still clinging on to their parents to elders who are slow to move but do so with immense pride, regardless.

Each performance is accompanied by a small group of individuals who provide the music or rhythm through a masterful blend of chants and songs, often times using percussion and playing the didgeridoo. The “stage” is a large circular patch of well-trodden dirt at the center of the campgrounds, with onlookers filling in whatever space is available around the outskirts. Scattered throughout the rest of the festival grounds are food and craft vendors, as —> Read More