Rainbow Region born from black and white

Co-curator of the Aquarius 08 exhibition at Lismore Regional Gallery, Paul Joseph, reacquaints himself with a banner he brought to the Nimbin Aquarius Festival in 1973 when he was a performer with The White Company. The exhibition opens with a party this Saturday.

In 1973, Paul Joseph, along with Johnny Allen and Graeme Dunstan, went looking for a festival site on behalf of the Australian Union of Students. The early 70s was the time of the Vietnam war, Gough Whitlam, Countdown and long hair. The festival would celebrate alternative thinking and sustainable lifestyles.

The trio thought the little town of Mullumbimby would be a good site. But the existing Mullum hippies had other ideas, and so did fate.

Instead, the Progress Association of Nimbin, a dying dairy town, pondered the groups proposal and gave it the nod.

And the rest, as they say folks, is alternative history. The Rainbow Region was born.

I was so lucky to experience such a thing in my life, Paul Joseph, Nimbin Aquarius Foundation president and co-curator of the Aquarius 08 exhibition at Lismore Regional Gallery, said. The festival changed the culture here from industries that relied on destruction of the environment to industries that are creative like the arts, healing, earth repair... and we have an astonishing learning industry here. All this makes the region attractive and now theres strong tourism as well.

Paul believes all the positive changes owe a debt to the night before the festival started.

Because of the Whitlam election, we were given resources to bring Aboriginals from all over Australia to Nimbin for the biggest ever gathering of black and white people in this country, he said. Now, we had heard Nimbin was taboo for women. We didnt really know what that meant. We were young, naive white fellas but we sought permission from the Bundjalung elders. We were lucky to meet Grandfather Donnelly, the last Bundjalung songman.

Permission to use the land was sought and given.

On the night before the festival started, with all the other Aboriginals gathered there, Grandfather Donnelly gave a welcome to country. Our respect for the custodians was met with great grace and blessings, Paul said. I knew then the festival would be a great success.

Aquarius 08 May the Longtime Sun Shine Upon You is an exhibition about the Aquarius legacy since 1973. And what a legacy it is the saving of Terania and Nightcap forests, the development of community living, the honouring of Indigenous rights, the creation of sustainable agriculture and industry, and an exploration of human spirituality and creativity.

The Aquarius Festival went for only 10 days but its influence was (and is) huge.

The exhibition includes some relics from the festival (like costumes, puppets and photographs) but the focus is more about the artworks and visions by locals who are inspired by the Aquarius culture.

The Aquarius 08 launch party is happening in true Aquarian style at the Lismore Regional Gallery this Saturday, April 26, from 3pm.

Therell be music, performances, stuff for the kids, the Chai Tent, market stalls and demonstrations.

The exhibition will be officially launched at 5pm followed by that most venerable of hippy traditions, a drumming circle with the Rainbow Region Drum Circle.

At 8pm at the gallery Nathan Koenig and Shelli Lipton from the USA will screen their film Woodstock Downunder. This film is about the relationship between the sister villages of Nimbin and Woodstock.

The summer of love started in San Francisco in the early 60s, bounced off Woodstock in 1969, took root in Nimbin for 35 years and now were taking it back home with this film, Nathan said. We hope it will teach Americans about freedom.

So dress up, bring a drum and your happiest vibes and celebrate the Aquarian spirit this Saturday.

Lets keep peace, love and hippiness alive and free in our city centre, Paul said.

Aquarius 08 May the Longtime Sun Shine Upon You runs until June 7.

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