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A true celebration of Kakadu

14 September 2018

The most anticipated festival of the year, the Mahbilil Festival, returned to Jabiru on September 1 and this year’s event was bigger than ever with a number of new elements as well to delight locals and visitors in 2018.
Running in conjunction with West Arnhem’s biggest sporting event of the year, the Kurrung Sports Carnival, the Mahbilil Festival is a true celebration of Kakadu culture, both traditional and contemporary.
This year’s festival got under way with an exciting outdoor exhibition program by Marrawuddi. This saw attendees embarking along an art walk from the Crocodile Hotel to the Mahbilil Festival site where Marrawuddi’s latest screen printing endeavours with local artists and some stunning surprise pieces from Manmoyi were on display.
In another exciting development for Mahbilil, a mural was designed and painted by local artists Graham Rostrom, Ray Mudjandji and visiting artist Ellie Hannon was also added to the festival site and unveiled during the outdoor exhibition evening. 
Mahbilil Festival Producer Scott Large said the mural was a special addition to the town.  
“It’s great to enliven some of the infrastructure of the town with some colour and story.  You get a great view of it as you drive from the shops towards the pool. We have had overwhelming feedback from many people, appreciating this new vibrant mural on the festival site,” Scott said.
Meanwhile, the full festival program kicked off on Saturday afternoon with bushfoods, workshops, weaving, painting and kids craft activities,  a spear throwing competition along with jumping castles in the pool and circus play and facepainting on the lawn.  
Scott said one of the highlights of the day was the local Kunjeihmi/Kunwinjku language components. 
“This year we had the Bininj Kunwok Language Project host an activity space that offered the opportunity for locals and visitors alike to learn basic words and phrases in language.  

We also made some word sculptures that captured people’s attention and got them asking what the meanings were – “Kunred” meaning our place/our country,  “Kamak” meaning great / good, and “anme” for food.  
Language is fundamental to the way that people communicate, think and work. We’d like to see more local language integrated into the festival in the future.”
The music and performance line-up officially kicked off as well as Jabirumours taking the stage to warm up the crowd.
Jabiru’s biggest cultural celebration saw Jabiru rockers ‘the Jabirumours’ bring their bluesy sound to kick off the stage, which was a massive hit with the locals. Melbourne (via Darwin) soul singer Phoebe Jacobs followed up with some smooth sounds.  
Then one of the highlights of the day – traditional dance or ‘Bininj Kunborrk’ with people from Jabiru Town camp, Manmoyi and Maningrida joining together. As the sun set Darwin songstress Stevie Jean had the crowd absolutely hypnotised with her incredible performance. Then one of the most popular elements of the festival every year – the JAS students performance program. This year saw two dance mentors from Artback NT working in the school for two weeks leading up to the event. The resulting global dance pieces had the crowd enthralled! 
Then the music took a more energetic turn with visiting band Bobby Alu bringing their reggae/Islander sound.  They finished with a couple of collaborative songs with local legends Black Rock Band, who followed up with a blistering set that had the crowd screaming. Then it was Narbalek Band, KK Band (with some special guests from Ripple Effect) and Current Vibe who rocked the night away.    
The Mahbilil team wishes to thank all our event partners: Gundjeihmi, KWAST, ERA, West Arnhem Regional Council, Kakadu Park, Veolia, Kakadu Tourism, Jabiru Foodland, The Croc Hotel and Kakadu Lodge. Plus the staff from Jabiru Area School, Gundjeihmi, Marrawuddi and WARC for all their help. It wouldn’t be possible without your support. 
There are a huge number of people that made the event a success this year, but special thanks to all the attendees for a really happy and safe celebration of Kakadu culture. See you all again next year!