An invitation to 'Walk with Us'
3 Jun 2014 | Blog | Australia | Long-term Development
By Rebecca Ngo, Program Officer in Caritas Australia's First Australians Program team
As we learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements during National Reconciliation Week, Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation and the people of Wugularr invite all Australians to join their community and experience their rich and enduring culture.
Last week, Caritas Australia’s longtime partner, Djilpin Arts held the ‘Walk with Us’ festival in Federation Square, Melbourne – an event showcasing traditional and contemporary culture, art, dance and song, and featuring the world premier of ‘Kundirri’ – a film celebrating the life of Aboriginal elder, David Blanasi.
David Blanasi – leader, teacher and story-teller
David Blanasi was an Aboriginal man of the Mayali language group, who lived in south-central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, in a remote Aboriginal community known as Beswick (Wugularr). As well as being a leader and teacher for his people, the achievements of Mr Blanasi included his mastery of the mago (West-Arnhem didgeridu). He experimented with the expression of culture through music and new sounds, capturing the imagination of his audiences by inviting them into the stories he told which were at once ancient and contemporary. Similarly, his artworks communicate stories, lore and relationship with country – passing important knowledge on to younger generations while welcoming others to take time and contemplate the messages expressed.
The documentary connects four generations of the Blanasi family as they take a journey into the bush, back to Kundirri, a place of cultural and spiritual significance. As they travel they recall and celebrate their memories of Mr Blanasi, who tragically went missing in 2001. Filmed largely by Wugularr youth, the documentary honors the life of Mr Blanasi and continues his legacy of storytelling, educating and entertaining audiences, from the strong and confident foundation of Aboriginal culture.
Generations of storytelling
As Mr Blanasi once did, young people in Wugularr are now learning their dreaming and inviting all Australians to listen and contemplate. Through different mediums they are following the footsteps laid down by their ancestors and speaking to their generation. In addition to the screening of the documentary, Djilpin Arts opened their ‘Walk With Us’ project by showcasing prints and new fibre art, and dance, songs and stories by dancers from Djilpin Arts and Tom E. Lewis, Djilpin Arts founder and renowned actor and singer.
Jessica Blitner, a young woman from Wugularr reflected on the meaning of the night and her work with Djilpin Arts, “This was my first trip away since starting with Djilpin Arts as an Artsworker, before Christmas last year. Being all around my culture made me think about learning more, I want to learn my traditional dances now. Watching the film about Old Man Blanasi made me think of all the memory and story he left for us. I want to respect everything he did for his community, for us”.
An invitation to all
However the night didn’t end there. The audience members were also invited to join the dancers on stage, singing along with the performers and, for a moment, fully participating in the stories being told.
Tom E. Lewis said “Walk with Us is about saying ‘it’s time to connect, to find a common language, a common experience’”. The Morning Star is a central symbol in the ‘Walk with Us’ project, with a meaning that transcends cultural differences. “Venus, the Morning Star is universal. We wanted to share our take on Bunimbirr, share that in Melbourne. And people did walk with us”.
The invitation to walk with Djilpin Arts and the people of Wugularr reflects the generosity and hospitality which is so important for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Their invitation and example is one for all Australians to embrace. It is a solid foundation upon which reconciliation will one day become a reality.
Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation is a not for profit organisation based in the Beswick (Wugularr) community of the Northern Territory, and aims to promote traditional and contemporary Indigenous arts.
Learn more about the work of some of our other First Australian partners
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