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March 12, 2015

Spirit Festival: PoeTRIBE

There are lessons to be learnt from PoeTRIBE’s main scribe, Lorna Munro, so CityMag listened carefully as we chatted with her ahead of the duo's upcoming atmospheric spoken word performance at the 8th annual Spirit Festival.

  • Words: Johnny Von Einem

Having performed spoken word as a solo artist for some time, Lorna Munro knows the great power of words, but it wasn’t until she met violinist Eric Avery that she discovered a much more vivid way to tell her stories.


The Spirit Festival is a free event that runs from March 11 – 15 at Tandanya and in Rymill Park.

PoeTRIBE performs at 6pm on Saturday, March 14 at Tandanya Art Café and at 8:30pm on Sunday, March 15 at the Main Stage in Rymill Park.

Triple J darling Thelma Plum and local lad Corey Theatre will also be performing, as will Diesel n Dub, a dub-reggae Midnight Oil cover band, which is surely not to be missed.

Check the website for playing times and a full list of performers, films and workshops.

“I was looking for someone to work with – a musician – and [Eric] just kind of came along and it was perfect,” Lorna says of PoeTRIBE’s origins.

“We were, at that time, really trying to find other ways for Aboriginal people to gain access to certain information about Aboriginal people’s significance and dates and places.”

The result of their collaboration is an engaging mix of sparse musical compositions lying beneath a perfectly punctuated and passionate delivery from Lorna, which condenses the modern Aboriginal experience into short and affecting pieces.

The subject matter they tackle varies, from drawing parallels between the experience of African-American woman Henrietta Lacks, the unaware donor of the world’s first immortal cell line (used for groundbreaking – but still unethical – medical research), and the experience of Australia’s Indigenous population, whose ancestral remains have often been desecrated in the name of science (or a foreign museum collection); to musing on the intangible concept of time inspired by the Gamilaraay language.

“‘Yilaalu’ means once upon a time in the past, but also the future, and I thought that was a really clever concept,” Lorna explains, “that time was endless, it’s a cycle, it’s not a linear thing.”

Some may come for the politics and philosophy, and some just because Aboriginal poetry backed by violin is inherently interesting, but what Lorna has noticed is that a PoeTRIBE audience will often leave with their curiosity piqued.

“It was a real surprise when people started coming up to us and telling us they loved what we did, and how we made them think … and go home and actually look things up that we were talking about, to educate themselves about issues that are important to us. I thought that was pretty powerful.”

As the holder of a bachelor degree in community management and adult education, you can imagine it might have been Lorna’s long-term objective to leave a lasting impression on her audience, but it’s equally as important for her to just be a part of the Australian art scene.

“Because there aren’t voices like Eric’s or like mine within mainstream media or arts, we’re creating for the younger Lorna and Erics – people that feel the same way that we feel – in the hopes that they see us getting up there and being brave with our messages, and being unapologetic. Hopefully it gives them the strength to be able to find their voice and find their ways of putting messages out there.”

And with an annual platform like Spirit Festival dedicated to celebrating the best in Australia’s Indigenous art, literature, music and culture, voices like Lorna and Eric’s can not only be heard, but also amplified.

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