As part of WATER RITES, an artist exchange was held in Port Lincoln, involving Barngarla artists from Galinyala (Port Lincoln) and Goordnada (Port Augusta) and WATER RITES artists from Adelaide.
Together with local traditional knowledge-holders and friends, artists undertook field trips visiting Barngarla country together, exploring critical sites in Galinyala, Gooyabidni (Sleaford Mere), Dhanana (Sleaford Bay) and Goorilyali (Boston Island). The Barngarla shared important, under-discussed stories of colonial violence, forced conversion and the ongoing trauma of the removal of Barngarla children from their families as part of the Stolen Generations program, and how these histories continue to affect communities and culture today. The Barngarla also spoke of their deep, ongoing connection to the lands and waters of the Eyre Peninsula, and of the importance of their traditional lands and waters to the ongoing practice of their culture, and caring for Country.
During the artist workshop, held at the Nautilus Arts Centre, artists shared time, food, paints, brushes, canvases and stories together, finding points of connection in a shared love of southern saltwater country and its resident flora and fauna.
Under the guidance of the distinguished linguist and founder of the discipline of Revivalistics, Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, who has worked with the Barngarla people for over a decade on the watershed reclamation of their “sleeping beauty” language, artists learned about Barngarla language and its critical role in continuing culture and cementing bonds to Country. Artists read excerpts from Professor Zuckermann’s landmark study, Revivalistics (Oxford University Press, 2020) and developed an understanding of the specialised listening and cooperative practices involved in the reclamation, revitalisation and ultimate reclamation of the Barngarla language.
Artists shared stories of traditional Barngarla sea-country practices, learning about the use of tides, stars, seasons and the enlistment of animals in traditional Barngarla hunting and rituals.
Exploring Barngarla language words for sea-creatures of traditional significance, the artists mutually decided to paint expressive portraits of the Walgara (shark) and Yaryardloo (cuttlefish/squid). Two large canvases were collectively painted, featuring these creatures and their names in Barngarla language in cross-cultural designs drawing inspiration from both worlds, creating a lasting testament to the collaboration, and the resilience of Barngarla language, culture and spirit.
Selected conversations from these workshops were documented, creating durable digital materials for the Barngarla to keep and continue to work with as part of ongoing cultural preservation, and will be presented at ACE Open at Sweat Tears and the Ocean Artist Talk on October 16.
With thanks to Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann and Nautilus Arts Centre.
WATER RITES is presented as part of Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art.
This project is supported by SA Water and the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.