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Noongar Perth Festival performance turned VR experience premieres internationally in Utah

Emma Ruben -

A Perth Festival performance in 2021 turned VR experience in 2022 has premiered internationally at Slamdance Film Festival in 2023.

After sold-out performances at Perth Festival, Noongar theatre-maker Ian Wilkes and artist and filmmaker Poppy van Oorde-Grainger set out to continually tell the story of the hidden history of Galup (Lake Monger) through a VR Experience.

After a successful VR run at WA Museum Boola Bardip during NAIDOC Week in 2022, the pair have premiered the experience internationally at the renowned Slamdance Film Festival.

Galup in Boorloo (Perth) is a common park and lake enjoyed by residents in nearing suburbs.

However, hundreds of Boorloo residents remain unaware of its history as a site where Noongar people were massacred in 1830.

The story was created and guided by a team of Noongar Elders.

Elder Doolann-Leisha Eatts, who died in 2022, wanted more than anything for this untold story to be brought to light.

"I have lived my whole life dreaming that this story would be told," she said in 2022.

"It was my greatest desire, right from when I was 10 years old."

Wilkes and Van Oorde-Grainger wanted to reach a wider audience with this story after their successful run during the Perth Festival 2021 season.

They turned to VR to create an intimate story experience for the audience.

Galup fuses modern VR technology with an oral storytelling to convey the history of Lake Monger to audiences.

"They feel like they are at the lake and they can meet Nan (Doolann) and have more of a body experience rather than just watching something," Van Oorde-Grainger said.

"This was a bit different because it's not like you're going to Mars or some obscure place, you're going somewhere people go everyday.

"But the VR gives them the experience of seeing it in a completely different way."

Galup VR Experience is free as part of limited private screenings at Slamdance.

Additional behind the scenes video and 360 experience will be available through the Slamdance Channel.

Wilkes said the experience to take this story further was driven by Nan Doolann's wish they continue.

"She was a powerful old woman, she really wanted us to push and drive this story with her voice," he said.

"She told us not to take a backward step if she was on her way out and that's what we're doing.

"So in a way it's grown more significant but it hasn't because we're pushing forward like we would have anyway. Nan wanted us to do this."

Galup VR Experience will premiere at Slamdance in Park City, Utah from January 21 to 24.

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