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Blak & Bright Literary Festival hugely embracing First Nations narratives for 2024

Joseph Guenzler -

Melbourne's biannual First Nations literature festival, Blak & Bright, is scheduled to make its return this year, from March 13 to 17.

The event focuses on empowering and celebrating First Nations writers and storytellers, offering an almost entirely free program.

Over five days Blak & Bright, Australia's largest biannual First Nations literature festival, will showcase a diverse lineup of more than 80 artists from various backgrounds and genres.

The expansive 2024 program, spanning 30 events, is set to unfold at prominent Melbourne venues such as The Wheeler Centre, Fed Square, State Library of Victoria, and The Capitol.

The festival, now in its fourth iteration since 2016, marks its biggest installment yet, with many events accessible through online live streaming.

Blak & Bright's 2024 program embraces the diverse expressions of First Nations writers, featuring a range of formats from songs and essays to oral stories, epic novels, plays, and poetry.

The lineup includes both new events and beloved favorites.

The 2024 edition carries the theme "Blak Futures Now," highlighting the immediate and modern relevance of Indigenous voices in literature, highlighting the importance of these narratives in today's world.

The theme serves as a compelling call to action, urging the recognition and elevation of the stories, experiences, and perspectives of First Nations people.

Festival Director Jane Harrison said this year's Festival is "a space for the exchange of ideas, the celebration of resilience, and the envisioning of diverse Blak futures".

"We are open to all audiences and want Blak stories to be shared and valued within the community," she said.

"Join us for a transformative journey, in person or online, and experience the future of the millennia-old tradition of storytelling."

Screen icon Leah Purcell AM will deliver the keynote at the Festival, reflecting on her life as an actor, writer, director, producer, singer, and speaker.

Following this, Through Our Lens features six writers sharing 12 defining images of their stories, encompassing family, Country, working lives, and influential places and people.

The lineup includes diverse storytellers like ABC journalist Daniel Browning, author and musician Gregg Dreise, Indigenous psychiatrist Helen Milroy, playwright Julie Janson, multidisciplinary artist Kirli Saunders, and author Mariah Sweetman.

Festival Director Jane Harrison explores the poignant themes of her novel 'The Visitors' alongside Melissa Lucashenko who delves into her epic novel Edenglassie, for an insightful conversation on First Nations perspectives of colonisation, moderated by Daniel Browning.

Stories Behind the Songs invites audiences to delve into the potent fusion of melody and meaning, as Blak artists explore storytelling through music.

Aspiring First Nations writers will have the opportunity to pitch their stories to representatives of all the major publishers in Pitch Blak.

In Rainbow Words, LGBTQIA+ writers Laniyuk, Kirli Saunders, and Stone Motherless Cold share the words and stories that inspired them, offering a spectrum from the aspiring to the inspiring.

Activists Aretha Brown, Hayley McQuire, Monica Jasmine Karo, and Clint Hansen, representing diverse social justice backgrounds, present thoughtfully curated ten-minute talks on positive change in Yung Tent Embassy.

For the full program visit the blakandbright website.

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