Fabulous feathers, glamorous glitter and sequined stilettos will grace the streets as Sydney celebrates the LGBTQI+ community in the annual Mardi Gras. The Pride flag flies this coming week, as do our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flags with Koori Gras kicking off.

In association with Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Moogahlin Performing Arts opens Koori Gras, a celebration of the deadly Indigenous, queer community.

Koori Gras brings an array of workshops and performances to Sydney. Beginning on Saturday February 15 with a new event; Blak Diva for a Day which encourages community members to come along and dress up as their inner drag persona.

Koori Gras Moogahlin Photo by Jamie James

Co-Artistic Director of Moogahlin and proud Biripi woman, Liza-Mare Syron says the new event is aimed at fostering and encouraging those trying drag for the first time.

“In the past, we provided some time to get a performance together and perform … but we noticed there was a lot of trepidation about taking that step – it was a big step forward for a lot of people,” she said.

“We thought why don’t we just do the Diva for a Day. People can come in, no performance pressure, dress up, do some make-up workshops, movement workshops, and maybe get some tips on looking good and advice on things they want to do. 

“Take those first steps, so that you’re comfy in those characters, or that persona or alter-ego.”

Mardi Gras theme for 2020, is WHAT MATTERS. The theme will be explored by seven emerging LGBTQI+ Black artists, both local and from across the country, at Mogahlin’s week-long writing intensive, Yellamundie Queer Blak.

The artists will work with Syron and renowned queer playwright, Victor Rodger.

“Most of the participants we have worked with before, we do offer other development and writing opportunities … there has been consistent participants. Some of the people who participated in last year’s development are wanting to come back and write something,” Syron said.

“We’re excited to have Victor Rodger come over, he’s from New Zealand. He’s a pacific, Blak, queer, award-winning writer.”

The artists will get the opportunity to debut their work at public readings on Saturday February 22.

Koori Gras will host the beloved Black Nulla cabaret on Saturday February 22 at the Seymour Centre. The cabaret sees Sydney’s most prestigious Blak drag performers hit the stage, including local Elder, Nana Miss Koori, Darwin performer Miss Ellaneous, Felicia Foxx, Drag Kings Bran Nu Boi and Bedazzled Shanks.

The event will be followed by Koori Kick-On Club Night. 

Moogahlin 2019 Blak Nulla Photo Jamie James

Mardi Gras will also host the award-winning and internationally praised cabaret, Hot Brown Honey. Challenging boundaries, celebrating resilience and satirically exploring hot topics, Hot Brown Honey aims to shine a light on the issue facing Indigenous communities across the globe.

Koori Gras is an all-inclusive, safe and comforting space for community to come together, celebrate and be who they are.

“From what I’ve heard over the years, there’s still a lot of stigma in the community about being Indigenous and it’s nice to feel free in a community to explore your sexuality, your gender, all those personal journeys you’re going on – make some friends and have some fun!” says Syron.

“You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone …you are really supported.”

“We are working with Graham Simms, known as Nana Miss Koori, who is just such a fabulous human being; who has been through a lot of experiences, tough experiences, himself and he is always there for people. 

“There is a community of support out there for people who want to show support for people who want to come out or are having a tough time.”

By Rachael Knowles