A not-to-be-missed intimate evening of musical entertainment and rich cultural history will unfold at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus on Friday, October 31.

Stories and Songs of the People – a unique public concert featuring traditional and contemporary performances – will showcase a wonderful mix of Native American and Indigenous Australian music, storytelling, poetry and dance.

It is being held with the support of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples.

An Indigenous art show and a forum looking at the cultural aspects of ‘Lore and Law’ will be held as a prelude to the concert, with guest speakers including Native American Elder, Julia BrownWolf.

Speaking as an educator with 40 years’ experience, an artist, and a grandmother, Julia aims to help facilitate and create a deeper awareness of our connection to our human family and to develop cultural sensitivity and inclusive practices in all people.

Event organiser Johnnie Aseron (pictured), himself a gifted musician, storyteller and artist, said he hoped the day-long event would ‘open people’s hearts’ and help them to ‘reconnect with each other and to our Mother Earth who sustains all life’.

“Who are we? What are we here for? Where are we going? These are questions addressed by artists and minstrels through time immemorial,” said Johnnie, a Haudenosenee/Lakota man who resides on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation, in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, USA.

As a 21st Century minstrel, Johnnie employs storytelling, song, Native American flute and drum, acoustic guitar, percussion and other various instruments in sharing his original and insightful messages and musical arrangements. He will be joined in the evening concert by guitarist Nick Larkins.

“I strive to create a space that invites us to discover our environment, our cultural histories, the diverse peoples around us and ourselves,” Johnnie said.

Musical influences during the concert will span from the great plains of the USA to the desert plains of outback Australia.

Many other special guests will include local duo Monkey and the Fish (Gnibi lecturer Marcelle Townsend-Cross and partner Chris Fisher); Kerry Neill, who will enthrall and entertain with his skillful storytelling and humour expressed through his consummate ability with the didgeridoo; Julia BrownWolf, who will tell a number of Lakota cultural stories; and acclaimed Indigenous artist Janet Long Nakamarra, who will sing traditional songs in the Warlpiri language.

Johnnie is also the director of the Stories and Songs of the People Foundation, a non-profit organisation which promotes comprehensive development strategies for Indigenous communities including sustainable agriculture and community nutrition (traditional diet), education, arts, music, culturally relevant micro-enterprise development and health and wellness services.

“The foundation is an ongoing effort to realise tolerance, understanding and acceptance between all peoples. The strength and wisdom found in our cultural diversity allows us to join together with many ‘voices’,” he said.

“These voices, both traditional and contemporary, give us the opportunity to share a common voice with a collective vision towards our future.

“As we move through the new millennium, it becomes evident that there are many issues still in need of attention.

“We must learn to live with one another if we are to begin the healing process for our planet, ourselves, our future and that of the generations to come.”

The program of events for Stories and Songs of the People, being held in the Whitebrook Theatre (Y block) at the Lismore campus, on Friday, October 31:

  • 11am: Opening ceremony and welcome.
  • 12pm: Free public forum – ‘Cultural Aspects of Lore and Law’ (Dr Loretta Kelly); ‘Natural Justice’ (Shelley Bielefeld).
  • 1pm: Free open forum and panel discussion (with Julia BrownWolf).
  • 2pm-4.30pm: Aboriginal art exhibition (free admission), at Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples (H block), with the unveiling of a new artwork by acclaimed Indigenous artist Janet Long Nakamarra. Featured artist: Digby Moran (Northern Rivers Bundjalung).
  • 7pm-9pm: Stories and Songs of the People public concert (in the Whitebrook Theatre).

Tickets for the concert are adults $20, concession/child $15, children under 12 free. Tickets are available through Gnibi(D block)on the SCU Lismore campus, from Norpa at www.norpa.org.au or at the door on the night.

For more information phone 6620 3955. To see the full program for the day’s events, and a map of the Lismore campus, visit www.storiesandsongs.org