The Land defines who we are, the way we live - whether we are salt water, fresh water, desert or island people. It is these ties to Country make us resilient, allowing us to see beyond injustice and adversity, connectingto our ancestral past,and informing our contemporary lives.
When you visit Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, you realise that this is a place where time does not exist. Day is measured by the length of shadows; a month by the level of salt crust on its surface or years by the rise and fall of waters that sweep through ancient river systems transforming the desert and bringing new life. Time is measured by the dramatic events of nature. Events that have scarred its surface also lie deeper in the layers of sediment that comprise the changing geography from what was once an inland sea to now a massive salt lake.
Between drought and deluge, Kati Thanda sustains a living history with the Arabunna people who have coexisted in the area, whose living evidence of occupation traces back thousands of years. For Arabunna elder Reginald Dodd, the landscape is a map of his direct connection to that Country. He reads the landscape with the knowing, wisdom and articulation that he’s inherited from his ancestors who have lived in this country for thousands of years. This landscape is alive with a living history that is still evolving and changing, yet remains untouched by the impact of humanity.
Being with Uncle Reg on his country and hearing his stories made me think deeply about Indigenous people like myself who live in urban areas and our relationship to country.
Visiting Kati Thanda with Uncle Reg was an amazing experience. For him and many who spend their life out there, it is what sustains them and is their life source. It is valued and treasured as a part of their family and as respected as would be a grandmother. We saw the significance of Country to the Arabunna people, from the management and maintenance of land to the diversity of waters and its sources. As a custodian, Uncle Reg shares his knowledge with others by offering guided tours to the area with a particular focus on the Aboriginal perspective. What is important to Uncle Reg and his community is that Kati Thanda remain intact and that it is valued for the amazing geographic and cultural natural wonder that it is - not for the resources that may lie beneath. It is vital that this remains protected and preserved for future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
Being with Uncle Reg on his Country and hearing his stories made me think deeply about Indigenous people like myself who live in urban areas and our relationship to country. I realised that although the location may be different the connection is the same. We have a profoundly visceral understanding of Country that goes beyond brick walls, concrete and an urbanised lifestyle. It defines who we are, the way we live our lives, whether we are salt water, fresh water, desert, or island people. It is these ties to country that have made us resilient, allowing us to see beyond injustice and adversity.
Translating this inspiration into story has been a big part of my life for the past year. I have loved seeing Terrain come to life and how it has evolved into a homage to country. Each designer has brought their own perspective to the work, creatively responding in such interesting and poignant ways. Thank you to Karen, David, Jennifer and Jake for inspiring me and bringing your beautiful vision of landscape to the work.
I believe Country reveals to us the natural laws that govern our existence and that as people, no matter what our background, we all have an innate longing to sink our feet into the sand, for our hands to splash water and to connect with the natural world. Landscape is at the core of our existence and is a fundamental connection between us and the natural world. The power of that connection is immeasurable. It cleanses, it heals, it awakens and it renews. It gives us perspective. It reminds us of something beyond ourselves and it frees us. When we are surrounded by nature we begin to understand our place and how we are a very, very small part of a much bigger picture.
Terrain is where spirit and place meet.
Thank you to Stephen Page who believes and entrusts me with this artistic responsibility. Catherine Baldwin and the Bangarra Family who ensure the operations of the Company firmly support our creative vision.
Amy Hammond who lived this journey with me.
Phoebe Collier, Catherine Goss and the production team who worked so tirelessly to transform the work from concept to production, and of course the dancers - contributing so much with their ideas, passion and energy and who I hope, with the realisation of this work, can take us somewhere else - if only for an hour.
A special thank you to Reg Dodd, his family, Arubunna Tours and the Arabunna community of Marree for sharing, inspiring and enriching us with their knowledge and stories from their country.
Thank you to my husband Scott, and my darling sons Yillen and Zef, who love and support me unconditionally.
This work is dedicated to the memory of my Father, Edgar Theodore Rings.
Landscape is at the core of our existence and is a fundamental connection between us and the natural world.