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.
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.
This is the Country of Wangkajunga woman Ningali Josie Lawford-Wolf (1967 – 2019), a close cultural collaborator of Bangarra whose spirit, stories and artistic contributions have inspired a number of the company’s works and enriched the broader arts landscape.
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.
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 is created by Bangarra Dance Theatre in consultation with Wangkajunga/Walmajarri Elders from the Kimberley and Great Sandy Desert regions, drawing on the stories, knowledge and memories of the past to create a new narrative for our Indigenous futures.
This work honours the legacy of Ningali Josie Lawford-Wolf and her family – past, present and future.