Storytelling unites. It is an immensely powerful phenomenon that inspires a sense of belonging.
Storytelling also has the capacity to capture the grand spectrum of human experience that includes Bathurst’s significant landmark — Mt. Panorama/Wahluu — a sacred site that hosts many stories.
The reigning duality of this place that was originally a Wiradyuri territory holds and withholds countless tales. Such narratives deserve to be shared across the Central West community in calling up a rich world of song, memory, landscape and belonging. While the mountain’s double name captures a sustained tension between shadow and illumination — a tension that could be identified as a divided “black and white” Australia — what is nonetheless preserved are the shades and glimmers of experience that tilt toward reconciliation. Narrative provides us with a unique means in which to move toward the goal of reconciliation by giving us the power to speak our truths — it gives us the precious opportunity to forge meaning out of chaos, darkness, despair, but also hope, light and even beauty. Light, originally as fire and now as a form of electricity, provides us with the power to illuminate the shadows of our history.
The ’Mountain Tales at Bathurst Winter Festival’ embraces the mixture of voices that have come to shape both historical and modern-day Australia and the regional township of Bathurst. Its ceremony of lanterns, drums, film, song, and poetry opens our ears and eyes to the stories of Wiradyuri elders. Anyone and everyone are also invited to tell their stories. Everyone has their own story to tell. And everyone has their own truth to tell. The event traverses and celebrates difference in giving birth to words, sounds and images that tap into our most ancient and modern desires that all revolve around the need for belonging.
The event begins with a Lantern Procession at Tremain’s Mill in which participants who have hand crafted their beacons of fire march together to illuminating the darkness of a Bathurst winter’s night. This light procession is accompanied by Fast Cars Drummers whose earthbound sounds anchor the aerial rays of light. The power of sound, and moreover the rhythm of a drum, is evocative of our heartbeats reminding us of our collective mortality. The singular sound of a drumbeat is also emboldening as it externalises the invisible realm of our communal heart.
Then there will be a screening of the film ‘Wiradyuri Ngayirr Ngarambang – Sacred Country’ beamed upon the architectural site of Tremain’s Mill. Participants and spectators with be directed to a QR code to listen to the English translation of the Wiradyuri language featured in the artwork. A webpage with videos and your thoughts on the film — one which meditates upon the experience of Sacred Country — can be recorded. What will be evoked is the importance of silence as there is great silence around some stories …
There will then be a sharing of stories. Two speakers will narrate their experience, reminding us that storytelling was originally an acoustic practise. Alice Blackwood will recite a poem — not all stories are prose-like but are poetic forms reminding us that the origins of all languages are grounded in the world of song. Everyone is then invited to eat and drink and share their stories informally around the fire, whether it be through a song, poem, or an anecdote.
The ’Mountain Tales at Bathurst Winter Festival’ event celebrates the sound, imagery, taste, smell of collective experience and the binding powers of storytelling. In light of the rise of digital technologies, narrative often becomes a fragmented and individualised phenomenon; here we wish to honour the idea of storytelling as a binding social force. The ’Mountain Tales at Bathurst Winter Festival’ event is a reminder of the tactile and physical power of collective narrativity in which stories are shared and commemorated. It also encourages one to reflect upon the fact that we all live in a multi-cultural society and a township that has a rich history of memory and forgetting. This live event offers you with an opportunity to be both a spectator to and participant in storytelling — you are all invited to partake in the light, sound, food, and festivities.
by Dr. Suzie Gibson
Senior Lecturer in English, Charles Sturt University
Mountain Tales Bathurst Winter Festival
Tremain’s Mill, Keppel St.
Saturday July 5-9pm
‘Wiradyuri Nygayirr Ngurambang – Sacred Country’
A collaborative moving image artwork by Nicole Welch, Wiradyuri Elder Wirribee + Kate Smith
An immersive work exploring Wiradyuri Ngurambang Ngayirr. Wiradyuri Elder Wirribee shares part of the narrative of Custodianship of Country, collaboratively working with local Artist Nicole Welch’s work that is linked to care-taking the environment. This work explores shared understandings between First Nation and Non-First Nation women, connecting to the landscape from Tarana along the Wambuul/Macquarie River to Wahluu/Mt. Panorama offering a space for contemplation toward a healing of people, community, place, and shared stories.