This year we had the joy of going to Womadelaide for one glorious day and evening. The photo here shows some of the beautiful banners that claimed Botanic Park as a “world of music and dance” for the weekend. Once again, Mother Nature provided the perfect park setting for WOMAD. Here we gathered in a collective ambiance of joy and liberty. Huge numbers in attendance here, we roam the park at will, creating audience at strategically placed stages, spoilt for choice of music to listen to and musicians to watch, the atmosphere filled with beats and lyrics and velvety voices. This truly is a weekend of heart choices for all generations.
The Moreton Bay Fig tree which became our base was one of many in the park that became a “community tree” for the weekend. The huge canopy of branches and leaves provided a roof of shade for many family and friendship groups who set up rugs on the grass beneath, coming and going at will to other parts of the park, leaving their gear in place to come back to when ready. In the centre of the shade, the massive tree trunk housed a constant stream of children in a dynamic “tree gang” of old and new friendships, and the prominent root structures all around the trunk become an obstacle course and circuit for little legs and a steeple chase for quicker, bigger companions. On the picnic rugs we can relax together, listening to the music, and enjoy chatting. We chat with the people we came here with and we chat with people who we have never met before. We all share life together over a 12 hour span. Parents of babies and young kids get to do the caring, meal and sleep routines in the midst of this outdoor home, with supporting comments and conversations from the “strangers” around them – a great opportunity to be all together as a community, not isolated.
The “hippie” dress code of many people who come to WOMAD, often draws comments. A male friend comments to me that we should all just come as we are and resist the need to dress a certain way to be here. Ah yes I hear myself saying – we don’t need to dress in a particular way at all, for this setting connects with the hippie in all of us regardless of how we are dressed. We have a warm hearted chuckle looking at the myriad of bold colours on our hair and skin and clothes in which we have been doused during this year’s colour parade, an explosion of pigmented dyes being thrown around and at each other to the beats of live music and a troupe of dancers creating a focal point. And it gets me thinking about the hippie movement.
A little online reading about the Hippie movement ( see http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/266600/hippie) indicates its background was the Beats movement which emerged in Bohemian communities across America in the 1950s, with signature seedy dress, manners and communication being adopted from the “hip” Jazz music scene in protest to “square”, conservative conventions finding “the joylessness and purposelessness of modern society sufficient justification for both withdrawal and protest” (quote taken from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/57467/Beat-movement ). The Beats favoured individual liberty and release (eg through street poetry, raw expressive writing styles, jazz music, Zen Buddhism and drug enhanced heightened sensory states) over focusing on political or social problems. Emerging in quick succession in American college campuses in the 1960s and 1970s, and in backlash to the Vietnam war, the Hippie movement saw young people claiming a break with repressed conventions for the middle classes. Folk music emerged along with free love and the distinctively free flowing and less conventional dress style, a shift in family and community values and structures, a rise in vegetarian diet, and indulgence in drug induced psychedelic and relaxed states. The online Encyclopedia Brittanica entry highlights that even though by the 1980s the Hippie movement was being replaced with the Yuppie phenomenon – young urban professionals focused on matters of career, the legacy of the hippie movement has been long-lasting and widespread in Western society including ‘relaxed formality’, ‘a shift in attitude to sexuality’ and an ‘ongoing care for the environment’ to the current day.
And so it seems there is a long history of social expression being intertwined with music and dance and artistic form. We are a long time on from the original hippie era now but some of the freedoms and grass root empowerment has been retained. How beneficial for Adelaide then that for over 20 years we have been able to regularly host world music performers to create a world of music and dance (WOMAD) for 4 glorious days and nights right here amongst us. It feels to me like it sure does nurture the joy in our community.