Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Womadelaide: reviewing a slice of heaven

On Sunday my youngest and I experienced Womad. In so doing, I encountered a part of Australia I’ve not yet seen – an Australia deeply respectful of indigenous voices, curious about migrant cultures, eager to experience the unfamiliar and celebrate diversity.

“I thought I’d died and gone to music heaven.” That was Tim Finn’s comment on Womad and at times it did feel like heaven – a world set apart, that for a period of time emitted ways of being human that were deeply spiritual, deeply appealing – generations together, loads of kids, enjoying engaging with adults; participative creativity, the sheer enjoyment of humans being at play.

In my Missional church leadership teaching, I suggest that one of the ways to listen to the world around us is through observation of festivals. Large scale events can tell us something about the wider narratives of our culture.

The narratives of Womad include an affirmations of being human, celebration of creativity and culture, respect for diversity and care for earth. To quote another Kiwi musician, “a slice of heaven.”


  • Yabu band, indigenous voices singing of the importance of heritage, history and relationships.
  • Lying on the Botanic Garden grass, gazing at tall trees, head to head with my youngest, listening to Archie Roach.  “The trees are smiling,” the youngest announced.
  • Les Gumes, installation storytelling. Random groups stepping into a world made alternative by the skillful change of space and the power of storytelling. Hard to explain, wonderful to experience.
  • Leigh Warren and dancers, an hour of contemporary dance, supported by live guitar, voice and didgeridoo.
  • Afrocelt Soundsystem. Over 15 years ago I stumbled upon their music in the leftover bin of a music shop. (Remember those – that historic artifact called music shops!) I loved the drum and bass loops, overlaid with Irish pipes and African beats. Seeing them live was simply superb.

So what did the youngest Taylor think at the end? Next year, she announced, we are all going. And for all four days!

Posted by steve at 10:06 AM


  1. you’ve really not encountered that part of Australia before? wow…

    Comment by cheryl — March 16, 2011 @ 10:48 am

  2. ooh, ooh, pick me! pick me!

    Comment by lynne — March 16, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  3. i commented before, but i think it got lost – this was really your first encounter with ‘an Australia deeply respectful of indigenous voices, curious about migrant cultures, eager to experience the unfamiliar and celebrate diversity’? I’m stunned…

    Comment by cheryl — March 16, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  4. yes indeed. missing it this time has made me decide to go for the full event next time. and like cheryl, i’m saddened that you haven’t seen or felt that part of ‘us’. mind you, particular slices of Adelaide (college, church, suburbs) are very mono-cultural. i will readily admit that WOMAD is a beautiful breath of the planet’s peoples.

    Comment by craig mitchell — March 16, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

  5. I love Womad, it is a peak experience of what the world can and should be …Womad is the embodiment of that Arundhati Roy quote “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” Or, in the case of Womad, I can hear her singing… Like Cheryl, and Craig, I’m sorry you’ve not seen aspects of it in “regular” life here in Oz… I guess the apology day back in 2008 was one such special day in my memory. Probably my similar ‘peak’ experiences have come through volunteer activities – when I hang out with Adelaidean Habitat volunteers it always seems that we can change the world (one house at a time!) and I remember a Taize retreat at the Coorong when an Aboriginal woman shared her heartbreak about the Hindmarsh Island bridge… hmm, interesting though, as I write this it does seem that to find these experiences I have needed to be very intentional about leaving the comforts of middle class suburbia behind, and I am not coming up with as many examples as I wish I could from my many years living here in SA! There’s something for me to think about. Thanks for posting your reflections.

    Comment by Michelle — March 16, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

  6. In your defence Steve, that part of Australia can get overshadowed by louder and more strident voices, and, also, there is a difference between catching a fleeting glimpse at a festival and immersing ourselves into culture in a more ‘incarnational’ way. Certainly not a criticsm, Steve, but an encouragement for the journey that has begun for you.

    Comment by Chris McLeod — March 17, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  7. Hi folk,

    I’d prefer if my comment was simply read as a positive comment about Womad and an affirmation of my joy in participation in that.


    Comment by steve — March 17, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

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