2009 Emerge Festival, Sunday June 21, Fitzroy Town Hall
A tide of food and music gushed out of Fitzroy town hall and onto Napier Street as part of the 2009 Emerge Festival, celebrating emerging and refugee cultures in Victoria.
Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Ethiopian, Western Saharan, Turkish, Jamaican, Afghani and Timorese cultural groups were but a handful of populations represented in song, dance, craft and cuisine.
The celebrations come one day after World Refugee Day, and amid increasingly difficult times for people seeking asylum. Just last week 46 Afghan refugees went on a hunger strike in Indonesia to press their case for political asylum in Australia, while hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians have been forcibly removed from their homes. The Federal Government has responded to a growing number of applications for asylum by a modest increase of 250 places in its refugee and humanitarian program, bringing the yearly intake up to 13,750.
However the Emerge Festival focused overwhelmingly on the honest joy of cultural expression. The whirling flood of colour and energy from the Burundian drumming group and smouldering harmonies of the Africa Collective glanced off the pastel, polished board cavern of the town hall, drumming workshops and coffee ceremonies outside lit up Napier street during the Sunday drizzle.
The Emerge Festival was all smiles, reinforcing the pivotal role played by cultural divergence in Melbourne’s identity, and highlighting the need for a stronger and united international voice for the treatment of refugees.