Productions

SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert

  • the Kimberley, Great Sandy Desert

SandSong is a powerful production that traces the ancient memories embedded in Kimberley Country, and creates new narratives for Indigenous futures.

Productions

About

Under the vast Kimberley sky, the red pindan dust stretches across the desert homelands of the Walmajarri, where the ancient knowledge of People and of Country is preserved through Songlines that have endured for hundreds of generations.

At the heart of this land is the Living Water - Jila – that resides in desert waterholes across the region and is the basis of cultural beliefs and practices. Sandsong tells the unique story of this Place and the survival of its People.

Between the 1920s and 1960s, Aboriginal people were removed off their Country and onto pastoral stations where they were forced into hard labour, usually for no wages and only minimal rations. Despite this displacement and cultural disruption, the Traditional People of the Western Desert have maintained unbroken connection to Land and Country - keeping songs, stories and kinship strong.

This is the Country of Wangkajunga woman Ningali Josie Lawford-Wolf (1967 – 2019), a close cultural collaborator of Bangarra whose spirit, stories and artistic contributions have inspired a number of the company’s works and enriched the broader arts landscape.

The Lawford family has long generational ties to this part of the Kimberley and are current owners of the pastoral lease for Bohemia Downs cattle station, allowing them the stability to continue to care for their Land, Culture and Community.

SandSong is a journey into ancient story systems framed against the backdrop of ever-changing government policy and of the survival of people determined to hold strong to their Culture.

SandSong is created by Bangarra Dance Theatre in consultation with Wangkajunga/Walmajarri Elders from the Kimberley and Great Sandy Desert regions, drawing on the stories, knowledge and memories of the past to create a new narrative for our Indigenous futures.

This work honours the legacy of Ningali Josie Lawford-Wolf and her family - past, present and future.

This production features the First Nations Walmajarri language (a Ngumpin language from the Kimberly region)


Sections of SandSong

ACT 1

MAKURRA I COLD DRY SEASON

Poison

Time and space collide in a cloud of black collective consciousness, foreshadowing dark times ahead. But the Land is always present, the breathing womb of resilience.

No cast

Dry

The vibrant energy of the seasons unfolds to reveal the enduring cycle that sustains life in the Great Sandy Desert.

Cast: Full ensemble

Skin

A young woman is guided through kinship and affirms her place amongst her skin group. She is given her name and told of her responsibilities to family, and to the women’s’ business knowledge that she will inherit one day.

Cast: Rika Hamaguchi, Glory Tuohy-Daniell, Lillian Banks, Courtney Radford, Kassidy Waters, Maddison Paluch, Emily Flannery

Junta: Women’s Traditional Bush Onion Dance

This traditional dance is about collecting the Junta Bush onions, cooking them, rubbing them together and finally winnowing them in the coolamon till they are clean and ready to eat and share with the family.

Cast: Rika Hamaguchi, Glory Tuohy-Daniell, Lillian Banks, Courtney Radford, Kassidy Waters, Maddison Paluch, Emily Flannery

Totem

The men are preparing a young man for Ceremony. Through the lens of male energy, ritual transformation connects the men to their totems. The totemic shapeshifters move through the space, evolving as they reaffirm story to place, and their responsibility to the maintenance of men’s sites.

Cast: Beau Dean Riley Smith, Rikki Mason, Baden Hitchcock, Ryan Pearson, Bradley Smith, Kallum Goolagong, Gusta Mara, Kiarn Doyle, Daniel Mateo

Marjarrka: Men’s Traditional Dance Story

This tells the true story of how Wurtuwaya (Yanpiyarti Ned Cox’s grandfather) and Wirrali (Ningali Lawford-Wolf’s great-grandfather) recovered their stolen Marjarrka totemic object from a group of men who had taken it and were using it to perform their own ceremony. Wurtuwaya and Wirrali managed to retrieve the sacred totemic object, and created this important ceremonial dance, which is performed by both senior and younger men.

This dance belongs to the Lawford Family, Tighe Family, Cox Family and James Family.

Source: National Museum of Australia.

Cast: Beau Dean Riley Smith, Rikki Mason, Baden Hitchcock, Ryan Pearson, Bradley Smith, Kallum Goolagong, Gusta Mara, Kiarn Doyle, Daniel Mateo

ACT 2

PARRANGA, HOT DRY SEASON

Coolamon

The women hunt during cold weather time. This year is different though, its dry and cold. The land is quiet and there is a drought, water and food are scarce. A meditation on fragility, survival, balance, knowledge, life and death.

Cast: Rika Hamaguchi, Glory Tuohy-Daniell, Lillian Banks, Courtney Radford, Kassidy Waters, Maddison Paluch,Emily Flannery

Spinifex

The men are carrying smoking spinifex to make a shelter. They are burning off, vaccinating, maintaining the health of Country. The old people are talking to Country, they can sense the change coming. The colonisers and their cattle have brought a dust storm with them which breaks the Land apart, displacing families.

Cast: Full ensemble

ACT 3

KARTIYA

Auction

The land has been interrupted. Mobs have left the desert, forced to leave the memories of bush life behind them. People begin their new life as laborers and domestics, in servitude to the pastoral industry, victim to the lawlessness of a new frontier and the whims of the station owners.

Cast: Full ensemble

Station Labour

The men toil from dawn to dusk in the stockyards, labouring in a relentless cycle, paid only in rations of food and clothing.

Cast: Beau Dean Riley Smith, Rikki Mason, Baden Hitchcock, Ryan Pearson, Bradley Smith, Kallum Goolagong, Gusta Mara, Kiarn Doyle, Daniel Mateo

Build Up / Walk Off

Wet season lies in the distance, reflecting the growing tensions of the people. A cyclone is brewing as the people stand up for their rights. Vincent Lingiari’s voice fills the space, stabilising the energy, awakening the memory of the proud desert men that they once were, and giving them the strength and solidarity to walk-off the stations.

Cast: Full ensemble / Aerialists: Rikki Mason, Lillian Banks

ACT 4

YITILAL, WET SEASON

Fringe

A young boy is lost, an internal storm brewing, ready to explode from social trauma and intergenerational grief. Wet season reminds him of his Grandfather and the resilience of the Lore Men who came before him. His sister steps out from the shadows of his fear, carrying the spirit to cleanse him.

Cast: Rika Hamaguchi, Baden Hitchcock, Kallum Goolagong, Daniel MateoLore Time Mobs come together for Ceremony and to begin the healing. Cast: Beau Dean Riley Smith, Rikki Mason, Rika Hamaguchi, Glory Tuohy-Daniell, Baden Hitchcock, Ryan Pearson, Lillian Banks, Courtney Radford, Kassidy Waters, Gusta Mara, Emily Flannery, Kiarn Doyle, Maddison Paluch

Karnti: Women’s Traditional Bush Potato Dance

This traditional dance is about looking for the Karnti bush potato. You look everywhere with your digging stick for the roots. You see a crack in the ground and that is where the Kartni is and you can dig it up.

Cast: Rika Hamaguchi, Glory Tuohy-Daniell, Lillian Banks, Courtney Radford, Kassidy Waters, Maddison Paluch, Emily Flannery

Painting Mob

Painting Country brings the people closer to their desert homeland, which they have not seen for forty years. Art transports them back to their traditional lands, reconnecting and reaffirming ties to Country. This cultural awakening empowers and strengthens them to rebuild family, community and their future.

Cast: Full ensemble

Homeland

Through oppression, multiple displacements and decades of upheaval, the spirit of people and place endures to stand strong in their kinship and belonging. They come together in wet season for Lore time when everyone gathers for Ceremony. Unbroken, the cycle continues.

Cast: Full ensembleDescriptions of traditional dances provided by Eva Nargoodah, Mayarn Julia Lawford and Putuparri Tom Lawford

GLOSSARY

Walmajarri language translations:

Kartiya
White Person

Makurra
Cold Season

Parranga
Hot, Dry Season

Yitilal
Wet Season

Ngurti
Coolamon

Marjarrka
Men’s Traditional Cone Dance

Karnti
Women’s Traditional Bush Potato Dance

Junta
Bush onion

Duration: 80 minutes


SandSong premiered in 2021.


Productions

Credits

Productions

Touring

Premiere Season | 2021
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