Dancers have jumped into one of the most polluted rivers in the world as part of a contemporary arts festival on Tasmania’s rugged west coast.
The Unconformity festival kicked off on Friday at Queenstown where, for more than 80 years, the local copper mine used the Queen River as a tailings dump.
The water still runs orange, something that was an initial put-off for Tasdance performer Isabella Stone.
“In my imagination, when people had spoken about the poisonous river … I imagined the water touching me and my flesh burning off completely,” she said.
But Ms Stone’s fishing waders, plastic goggles and surgical gloves will help protect her from the polluted water, which she said was not so unpleasant after all.
“I don’t feel like the goggles or the gloves are really necessary anymore, there’s no stinging, there’s nothing on the skin,” she said.
“If anything, it just has more of a smell — you smell your skin after being in the water and … you smell like rock or concrete basically.”
The performance, called Junjeiri Ballun, Gurul Gaureima — or Shallow Water, Deep Stories — is the creation of director Thomas E.S. Kelly.
It depicts four native animals moving through the water and acknowledges the Indigenous history of the area as well as exploring the pollution in the Queen River.
“I’m not a scientist, I don’t know the scientific ways of how to fix it … but what can I do?” Mr Kelly said.
“I can try and create a bit more awareness, and I can do a cultural and a spiritual healing into the space.
“We’re here, we’re a part of the land, we need to look after the land.
“Something as simple as acknowledging [nature’s beauty] and knowing what that water can do for us … that’s an important part of the process.”
Queenstown’s population triples for festival
The Unconformity director Travis Tiddy said the three-day event was a celebration of Queenstown’s relationship with mining.
“This town has a rich history,” he said.
“Part of the festival is to just let people loose and have them absorb the wonderful character and locale of Queenstown,” Mr Tiddy said.
“The festival is inspired by the geological fault that the town rests on. That’s why it is called The Unconformity.”
The festival is expected to attract up to 4,000 visitors to Queenstown, which boasts a population of 1,800.
The event was rebranded in 2016 from the Queenstown Heritage and Arts Festival, and Mr Tiddy said the change in name had paid off.
“The festival is doing remarkably well, it’s been hugely encouraging,” Mr Tiddy said.
Tasmania’s west coast has experienced significant ups and downs in recent history.
Many jobs were lost after the Mount Lyell Copper Mine was put in care and maintenance mode for several years after two fatal accidents, and Queenstown’s fortunes shift with commodity prices.
Topics: arts-and-entertainment, contemporary-art, music, performance-art, street-art, visual-art, community-and-multicultural-festivals, carnivals-and-festivals, events, queenstown-7467
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