Voyager 2021 media awards

A trip to the dark side at this Tasmanian festival

It's one of the most anticipated dates in the arts calendar – Tasmania's Dark Mofo, the annual offbeat arts festival that makes headlines every year. From artists buried alive (under a road for three days) to irreverent religious iconography, this is a festival that has never shied away from controversy.

The festival has something of a cult fan base – it's known for its exploration of the dark and the after dark through contemporary art. After last year's festival was cancelled due to Covid, Dark Mofo is back with an incredible line-up, from Thurston Moore (of New York City's Sonic Youth) performing with New Zealand's own The Dead C, to a performance by Gavin Bryers and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra of Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (Bryers' 1971 orchestral arrangement based on a loop of a homeless man's voice). Across town, Nightwalks with Teenagers are, literally, nightwalks through Hobart with local teens.

The Burning

Most festival events are free: scattered through Dark Downtown (that's the central areas of Hobart's Liverpool, Bathurst and Melville Sts) are bars, galleries and public spaces hosting various displays, exhibitions and performances.

The Burning at Dark Mofo, Tasmania. Photo / Adam Gibson
The Burning at Dark Mofo, Tasmania. Photo / Adam Gibson

Winter is famously unpredictable in Tasmania, and much of the festival is outdoors, so visitors should be prepared for all kinds of weather, from sun to rain to hail. The festival runs until Wednesday and there's still plenty to take part in and see. At 5pm today is the burning of the Ogoh Ogoh, a traditional Balinese statue burnt to purify the environment. Visitors to Dark Mofo are invited to write down their fears and worries, and put these into the belly of the Ogoh Ogoh, reflect on their fears, then sacrifice them to the fire.

Later this evening is the last night of the Winter Feast – a wonderful gothic banqueting affair – but there are plenty more highlights to come, including the infamous nude solstice swim when thousands of bare naked humans will run across the sand of Long Beach, and plunge into the freezing winter waters of the River Derwent.