Welcome to country kicks off PIAF in Albany
Great Southern Festival program manager Rod Vervest outside Albany Entertainment Centre.

A welcome to country will start this year’s Perth International Arts Festival Great Southern program at the Friday night launch.

A Noongar canvas painting will be unveiled at Albany Entertainment Centre and will form the backdrop for the ceremony.

The Ngallak Koort Boodja canvas, or “our heart land”, took three years to complete and last made an appearance at the Great Southern Festival in 2011.

It was commissioned by Perth Festival in 2006 as a way of uniting the artwork of 14 Noongar groups and symbolising unity of Noongar country, stretching across the South West from Geraldton to Esperance.

Great Southern Festival program manager Rod Vervest said the festival aimed to embrace and include indigenous culture in celebrating the arts.

“The return of the canvas is a key part of the festival launch,” he said.

“The welcome to country is an annual tradition at the launch of the festival and acknowledges the indigenous community.

“We wanted to get the Noongar community involved as much as possible.”

Albany indigenous elder Harley Coyne was one of the organisers of the painting project and believes similar artwork should be seen more often.

“The project was a lengthy process, but it should be celebrated as it brought us all together,” he said.

The University of Western Australia Albany campus will host a lecture and discuss the themes of the painting on Friday afternoon.

UWA operations manager Paula Phillips will co-ordinate the seminar, from 4.30 to 5.30pm.

“The painting expresses traditions and knowledge of the Noongar people,” she said.

The festival will be launched at AEC at 6pm.

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