Yaama Ngunna Baaka: Dancing the River
Everyone is feeling the heat the long dry roots of red gums hang adrift on a channel sinking
voices rise rage at the sight the smell of river life drying up dying
anger spreads to dams weirs holding back the flow allocated water bought and sold Along the banks three Nations gather for corroboree traditional men dance
Sing up the Paarka in language Wangkumara- Ngemba men mourn with creatures struggling
underground beat clapsticks stamp wake the earth their storylines flowing slim to a trickle now
Downstream Barkadji men dance makkarra rain stories pound the dust call River Spirits into life Sing for a tribe bound to the Baaka in flood
When the rains come Paakantyi read the signs welcome this time of plenty watch thiirri the sacred mudlark fly over territory to wake her water world fill lakes at Cawndilla Menindee Tandou Bijiijie As if by message stick river life stirs Sleeping for years under mud kathunya watarta spawn in the flow Pelicans cormorants come to feast bring movement song to the waiting country Barkadji: Northern River People Paakantyi: Southern River People Baaka, Paaka: Darling River kathunya: crayfish watarta: mussels
Previously published in Westerly vol. 67 no. 1 2022 periodical issue pg. 165-167
The science inspiring the piece:
During the ‘Long Drought’ a friend joined a group of Aboriginal people walking the Darling River in an attempt to ‘dance the river’ back to life. To bring rain to restore the flow and bring wildlife back to the region.
I researched online, reading articles written by water ecologist Professor Jamie Pittock from the Australian National University, regarding the environmental science and the present inadequate conservation policies meant to protect the river.
Feature image by William Piguenit