“SAY it, say ‘Yuma’,” National Museum of Australia director Mathew Trinca urged the crowd who had turned up for the Reconciliation Week concert on Saturday morning (June 5) to engage with the Ngunnawal language.
The concert, “Sharing Stories and Songs from Yuin Country”, was a collaboration between the recently-formed Djinama Yilaga Yuin choir from the south coast, who are writing choral works in their stolen Dhurga language and their “Mudjingaals” or friends, a group of artists from the musically-lively village of Candelo in the Bega Valley.
The show, initially commissioned by the Four Winds festival at Bermagui, was first performed at Easter this year with the idea of bringing together creative forces from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
Trinca praised museum staff for their work through the Cultural Connections Program, in which the National Museum had partnered with local land councils, shires, and arts and cultural organisations to support indigenous community-led projects that strengthened local cultural practices.
There were, he said, now 19 partnerships involving 12 cultural workers, not least Ngarigo and Walbunja (Yuin) woman, Cheryl Davison.
As Aboriginal creative producer with Four Winds in Bermagui, a post supported by the National Museum, Davison had initiated the revitalisation of traditional stories and language and the forming of a choir.
Djinama Yilaga means “happy ceremony” in the Dhurga language and the choir’s success, Trinca said, could be seen in the “essentially human material” in their songs.
The concert that followed in the NMA’s atrium began with Djinama Yilaga songs like the welcome song, performed a cappella.
There were original musical reflections by the Candelo musicians, seen in Heath Cullen’s tribute ballad, “Your Time Is Your Time And It’s Timeless To Me”, and David Ross McDonald’s optimistic number, “We Can Turn Around”, and readings by Canadian-Australian poet Raechelle Kennedy, who compared her home country to Candelo (where she now lives).
The pace quickened with a tribute song to revered coastal custodian Deanna Davison and a reggae-style chorus, “No One Be An Island”.
But the high point of the concert came with the arrival on the floor of livewire Bermagui rapper and producer, Gabadoo, whose nifty double-time hyped up the audience, while ramming home the unmistakeable message, “Stay home to people, stay close to family”.