Case Studies Sending Worimi to the Big Sing in the Desert | RAF Case Study (2018)
Quick Response Grant recipients, via the Regional Arts Fund, as managed by Regional Arts NSW.
Four women from the Worimi nation on the Mid North Coast of NSW attended the Big Sing in the Desert in Alice Springs and were inspired to develop their own local event Big Sing by the Sea in Forster, NSW.
Lynette, Janice, Lisa and Kiha from the Worimi & Biripi nations on the Mid North Coast of NSW attended the Big Sing in the Desert in Alice Springs with financial assistance from the RAF Quick Response Grants.
Big Sing in the Desert is a unique event held annually since 2010 near Alice Springs NT. The 4 day event brings together singers and cultures from across Australia. Directed by Rachel Hore, the focus is on making social and cultural connections, developing harmony and vocal skills and learning songs in central desert languages taught by Aboriginal song leaders. Big Sing in the Desert has successfully created a meeting place of trust and safety between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal singers.
Attending Big Sing in the Desert was a unique opportunity to learn from other Aboriginal communities who have created their own choirs and to receive the support from Rachel Hore herself. The women mixed with other Aboriginal communities who, in their own words “have maintained a much greater connection with their art, culture and language”.
Desert communities have a long tradition of choral singing and dance and have retained much of their language. This was an opportunity for the Worimi women to share culture and to see how important language, dance and singing is to the ongoing success of culture. This has been further incentive to start a choir and rebuild their own language, Gathang. There were over 140 people at the workshop, including 6 desert choirs and the famous Hermannsburg Choir, the "Song Keepers". Worimi women felt privileged to watch the 7 sisters dreaming dances for the first time. They learnt several new songs in a range of desert languages, 2 of which they intend to translate into Gathang.
Upon arriving home to Forster, planning began for Big Sing by the Sea including the possibility of ending the workshop with a concert which was intended to showcase what the women had learnt together, and also inspired a whole range of new individual and group performers. All of this has fostered a new willingness for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities to work together and a new level of understanding. The Big Sing by The Sea is now an annual event.
“The visit to the desert allowed us as Elders to connect with the desert communities as well as Aboriginal people from other areas of Australia. It highlighted for us how much culture we have lost and how important it is to maintain and share what we have. We formed a whole lot of new friendships with these people. At least 12 Birpai women are now in regular contact with the Worimi community and participate in our Big Sing by the Sea”
Following Big Sing by the Sea 2018, singing group Baraya Wakulda (Singing Together) was formed. This is has become a weekly focus for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to sing together and has become an inspirational forum for “Real Conciliation”.
- The visit to the desert allowed Elders to connect with the desert communities as well as Aboriginal people from other areas of Australia.
- Strengthened local cultural connections: The Big Sing By The Sea weekend started with a cultural cruise on Wallis Lake where 2 Elders told stories about growing up on the "Mish" as well as pointing out significant Worimi sites on the lake. There were 76 people who attended the cruise with feedback saying that it was a privilege to hear their stories and gain a better understanding of Worimi culture. It has now become an opportunity to showcase the best of Worimi art and culture.
- New interest in the Gatahng language has occurred. If possible new songs are regularly translated into Gathang where the new combined choir learns and shares them. The group hopes to invite Big Sing In The Desert attendees to travel to attend Big Sing By The Sea
- Young women and teenagers attended Big Sing By The Sea for the first time and are attending Big Sing in the Desert in 2020.
- The project fostered a new willingness for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities to work together and a new level of understanding.
- Media coverage through local ABC TV.
- Baraya Wakulda choir has already sung at 7 “gigs” including opening the recent SaltWater FreshWater 2020 Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony, with 8 songs.
Applicant location: Forster, NSW
Project Location: Ross River Resort, via Alice Springs, NT
Amount of RAF support: $1,368 (per person x 4)
Total project cost: $2,078 (per person x 4)