On Friday night the first Blak & Bright will kick off with a night of music at Shebeen. The launch of this new Indigenous-Australian literary festival will feature performers such as Kutcha Edwards, James Henry and Monica Weightman. It’s not a typical book festival launch. And there’s good reason for that.

“We’ve been storytellers forever,” says festival director, Jane Harrison. “Storytelling isn’t just books. It comes through music, performance and art, and I wanted to reflect that.”

Indigenous “affairs” are in the headlines often. Harrison is concerned that focusing only on controversial political issues disregards the role Indigenous culture should play in Australia.

“Even within Aboriginal culture there’s a lot of different kinds of storytelling,” says Harrison. “We’ve got poets, prose, non-fiction, speculative fiction – and songwriting is also a powerful literary genre,” she says. “People like Kutcha Edwards have a really powerful narrative in their music.”

We’re also in a great time for Indigenous literature, from critically acclaimed novelists, such as Alexis Wright, Ellen van Neerven and Anita Heiss, with her black approach to chick-lit (she calls it “choc-lit”). It’s the perfect time to focus a whole festival on Indigenous stories.

“I guess we want to open people’s awareness,” says Harrison. “We’re not just telling one sort of story.”

Blak Gala: Stories Behind the Songs is on February 19 at Shebeen from 8.30pm to 10.30pm. Blak & Bright runs from February 18–21.

blakandbright.com.au