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The Language of the Leaves

There's nothing quite like relaxing under a shady tree on a warm Darwin day, but have you ever thought about the history behind the greenery gracing our streets? Many of us would have to say it’s not something we know much about.

A new pop-up concert series by Arafura Music Collective in collaboration with Larrakia Nation, The Secret Life of Five Darwin Trees, aims to change that – to help us reconnect with the unique environment around us.

Taking place at five different locations around the Darwin CBD, these site-specific events combine music, poetry and stories with the sounds of the environment. Arafura Music Collective Artistic Director Claire Kilgariff hopes the series encourages people to reflect on the splendour of our heritage trees.

“We’re keen for people to feel connected to each other, to their city, and to these beautiful beings that are in the city that most people just walk past every day,” she says.

Some of the trees that are the focus of the concerts – such as Galamarrma (the Tree of Knowledge) at Darwin Civic Centre or The Liberty Tree at Liberty Square – are around 200 years old and have borne witness to crucial moments of Territory history.

The Liberty Tree is named after the events of the 1918 Darwin Rebellion that took place at Liberty Square, while Galamarrma, a tree of cultural significance to the Larrakia people, was an important meeting place and a site where Chinese youth met and learned from their elders.

Responding to this history, the concert at Galamarrma features a 19th century folk song written when many Chinese people were migrating to places like Australia, and the recitation of a poem about leaving China called Farewell Song.

“When Tracey happened and World War II … when Chinatown was destroyed, all through this the Tree of Knowledge or Galamarrma was there,” Kilgariff reflects.

So next time you’re strolling the city streets, just consider that trees are not only vital to our wellbeing, they’re also leafy witnesses to our shared heritage.

The Secret Life of Darwin Trees
WHEN SUN 16, 23 & 30 MAY, 10AM SUN 6 & 13 JUN, 5PM
COST $10 | U18 FREE

Photo: Header & thumbnail – Paz Tassone

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