Stories from the Great Sandy Desert
Bangarra Announces National Tour for Premiere of SandSong
Australia’s leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performing arts company, Bangarra Dance Theatre, will present the world premiere of a powerful new contemporary program, SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert. It will open at the Sydney Opera House before touring to Canberra, Bendigo, Brisbane and Melbourne from June 2021.
Created by Bangarra Dance Theatre in consultation with Wangkajunga/Walmajarri Elders from the Kimberley and Great Sandy Desert regions, SandSong has been choreographed by Bangarra Artistic Director Stephen Page, a descendant of the Nunukul people and Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation, and Bangarra Associate Artistic Director Frances Rings, a descendant of the Kokatha Tribe from the West Coast of South Australia.
Under the vast Kimberley sky, the red pindan dust stretches across the desert homelands of the Walmajarri, where the ancient knowledge of People and of Country is preserved through Songlines that have endured for hundreds of generations.
At the heart of this land is the Living Water – Jila – that resides in desert waterholes across the region and is the basis of cultural beliefs and practices. Sandsong tells the unique story of this Place and the survival of its People.
SandSong tells the unique story of this Place and the survival of its People, where between the 1920s and 1960s, Aboriginal people were removed off their Country and forced into hard labour for no wages and minimal rations. Despite this displacement and cultural disruption, the people of the Western Desert have maintained unbroken connection to their Land, keeping stories and kinship strong.
“In 2020, when we started the research for SandSong, the world was a different place,” said Bangarra Artistic Director, Stephen Page. “Our remote Indigenous communities, once described as ‘lifestyle choices’, became more crucial than ever as they functioned as refuges to protect our most precious resource: our Elders.”
This is also the Country of Wangkajunga woman Ningali Josie Lawford-Wolf (1967-2019), an acclaimed performer and an important cultural consultant and artistic collaborator of Bangarra, whose spirit, stories and artistic contributions have inspired a number of the company’s works, and enriched the broader arts landscape. SandSong honours the legacy of Ningali, and her family – past, present and future. The Lawford family has long generational ties to this part of the Kimberley and are current owners of the pastoral lease for Bohemia Downs cattle station, allowing them the stability to continue to care for their Land, Culture and Community.
Between the 1920s and 1960s, Aboriginal people were removed off their Country and onto pastoral stations where they were forced into hard labour, usually for no wages and only minimal rations. Despite this displacement and cultural disruption, the Traditional People of the Western Desert have maintained unbroken connection to Land and Country – keeping songs, stories and kinship strong.
“SandSong is a glimpse into the world of the Walmajarri & Wangkajunga people from the Great Sandy Desert, who survived incredible disadvantage to keep strong a lasting cultural bedrock for future generations,” said Bangarra Associate Artistic Director, Frances Rings.
SandSong will also include immersive soundscapes composed by Steve Francis, exquisite stage designs by Jacob Nash, atmospheric lighting designs by Nick Schlieper and stunning costume designs by Jennifer Irwin.
Shared through a dance theatre language that is truly unique in the world, and performed by Bangarra’s internationally-acclaimed dance ensemble, SandSong is a journey into ancient story systems framed against the backdrop of ever-changing government policy, and of the survival of people determined to hold strong to their Culture.
SANDSONG: STORIES FROM THE GREAT SANDY DESERT
SYDNEY – Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
10 June – 10 July
CANBERRA – Canberra Theatre Centre
15 – 17 July
BENDIGO – Ulumbarra Theatre
23 – 24 July
BRISBANE – QPAC
13 – 21 August
MELBOURNE – Arts Centre
27 August – 4 September