By UTE SCHULENBERG
THEY made it. Following the dramatic delay due to costumes and quarantine problems in Brisbane on Friday, the 41 West Papuan performers from 'Tam Tebu' and 'Opako Kakuru' made a spectacular entrance at Bellingen's Global Carnival on Saturday.
Fully painted, carrying spears and wearing feather headdresses (some borrowed locally), the two tribes came through the gates and immediately made contact with members of the Gumbayngirr community in a brief but powerful welcoming ceremony.
"It was very emotional meeting our Papuan neighbours and welcoming them to our country," Uncle Neville Buchanan said.
The performers then thrilled enthusiastic crowds with their presentation of traditional tribal song and dance.
Visitors were enchanted by the sweet voice of South African singer Vusi Mahlasela singing his words of humanity and reconciliation.
They were thrilled by the energy of the Concertino Trio, a Russian ensemble featuring the talented 14-year-old Dasha Moloksher-Oskolkov, granddaughter of violinist Igor Oskolkov.
Seaman Dan, the ex-pearl diver in his 70s from Torres Strait, crooned his way into many hearts.
People were certainly getting into the contagious gypsy/flamenco rhythms of SARS and still more were splitting their sides at the hilarious patter of the Spooky Men's Chorale.
And the awesome funk-reggae fusion of Blue King Brown, led by the captivating 21-year-old Natalie Pa'apa'a, would have made Bob Marley smile.
The festival's centrepiece, the massive bamboo souk, lived up to expectations, creating wonderful spaces for a variety of performances.
Squirt, by Linsey Pollak, was a highlight. Water bottles were squirted at two-dimensional acrylic frogs, triggering a soundscape of Australian frog noises. Yesterday, festival organiser Bryony Taylor said she was thrilled with this year's event. "The festival just rocked," Ms Taylor said.
"We've had so many comments about the music and the atmosphere. Everyone especially loved the souk ? it was a magical space."
She said the excellent weather had brought about 15,000 over the three days and she was confident of covering costs.