There is something so deeply unknowable about the Australian Outback and the Kimberley, with its cultural and geological/graphical nuances, epitomises that mystery. This is not some romanticised notion of the outback nor the various traditional cultures that are struggling against so many tides to survive, but a hard, gritty sense of mystery that grows out of, on one hand, the unknowability and on the other the hilarity of the mundane.
I am inspired to write after what seems like months but is, this time, just over two weeks in the Kimberley. I’ve been here with Gillian Howell in Fitzroy Crossing preparing for the 3 year program that Gillian will lead working with a whole range of community organisations and demographics – facilitating the process of trauma through community music making. That was just three days of meetings in Fitzroy, but powerful previous connections with organisations and individuals were an auspicious start to that ongoing process.
Whilst there I met with Keith Andrews, Bunuba elder who leads the traditional Bunuba Dancers. They will be performing at the Fitzroy Crossing concert as part of this year’s Echo Tour in September. This will be the first such a cross over in Fitzroy Crossing for our annual Tour through the Kimberley. A cross over with traditional Bunuba culture through a group that is dedicated to its preservation and promotion. I have started the conversation with Kevin about possible collaboration between traditional songmen and the artists on this year’s Tour including Bart Willoughby, Mark Atkins, Stephen Pigram and the Narli Ensemble. These possibilities create, well excitement seems superficial, I think a high level of curiosity and anticipation is a more apt description.
This has been repeated across my Kimberley travels and connections with co-presentations and collaborations with Bardi Dancers (One Arm Point ) and Gija Dancers ( Warmun) doing traditional song/dance Junba and also collaborating with Tura’s artists.
I was especially delighted to be invited to a meeting on Alan and Peggy Griffiths land east of Kununurra (actually in the Northern Territory) to set up a night on their country for collaborations between local didgeridoo players, songmen and dancers and Tura artists. This is such an amazing outcome of 15 years of relationship and trust building. Who knows where it will lead, but as they say themselves – a start of new process.
Alan and his son Chris then announced that at the Tura concert in Kununurra they will be presenting a special Junba by Ngarinyman Dancers from Timber Creek way – one that hasn’t been danced/sung for over 20 years.
All of the above gives but a taste of the level of cultural connection that Tura has created across the Kimberley. It is the community reflection of the ethos of the Touring program – cultural collaboration, celebration and adventure. Within the Tour program Bart, Mark and Stephen’s unique collaborations nd creative processes with Erkki Veltheim (violin, composer), Stephen Magnusson (guitar, improviser), Tristen Parr ( cello, composer) and myself ( flute, improviser) combine creativity and rigour to produce a unique program of song, sound and story.
My trip now has set up new collaborations en route with Gabrielle Nodea (Warmun), Peter Sibosado (Kununurra), Danny Marr (Fitzroy Crossing), Naomi Pigram (Broome) amongst many – all making for an incredibly rich tapestry of cross cultural exploration.
All this through the overwhelmingly stunning and complex terrain of Kimberley landscapes, which I have no doubt not only shape the local music but that of the Touring party travelling through.
It is both a great privilege to do this work, meeting and working with people with such integrity of intention. It has moments of great and surprising joy. And it’s hard and at times frustrating work – in a world of instant responses and where the goal is simple message, here time works very differently and things can be incredibly complex. However, 15 plus years of experience of doing and studying and doing…. There is a body of understanding and accrued patience that means great things are allowed to happen.
It is the faith shown by donors across that time that has allowed all this to happen and for that I and all at Tura are perpetually grateful. And now the opportunity is to really leverage that understanding, patience and trust that has been developed across that time and expand our programs across the Kimberley and the top end. We do need high level donors who resonate with our vision and purpose and are moved thus to commit to years of support for the organisation.
Our Tura Traveller program is a great entry into our Donor Circle giving donors an embedded experience of Tura’s Regional Touring Program. This experience has inspired previous Tura Travellers to commit to many years of significant donations.
I really hope you can share that experience soon with expressions of interest now open for 2018 and 2019.
Meanwhile, if you can’t come on the Tour, please consider donating now to ensure our ongoing sustainability for this great cause.
I leave you with the picture of what I’m doing right now which is being in a community 200kms south west of Kununurra called Warmun – the Warmun Art Centre made famous by Rover Thomas coming out of the desert to paint.
Here, composer/performer/installationist Jon Rose has been working with the community over 2 weeks to convert an old car wreck into an astonishing percussion and string instrument. Tonight was the dress rehearsal of the Wreck with a group of young Gija men from Warmun under the baton of Rose as he directed them through the wonderful sound world he has designed into the Wreck. After the project has finished, the senior artists here will paint the Wreck and next year it, with its recorded stories from the community about Wreck and landscape, will wend its way to Perth for special series of performances by Warmun and Perth performers.
This has been another set of miraculous synchronicities enabled by being here, having the connections leading to new connections and on.
I look forward to sharing more of our northern cultural adventures with you soon and hope you can find a way to start or extend your support for Tura. Likewise, I hope to see you on Tour as a Tura Traveller in a year not too far away.
15 August 2017