An unusually chilly January evening greeted us all as we waited on jetty 5 at Barrack Square prior to boarding this most unique craft.
Is this a building or a boat my guest asked as we were greeted by a young female deckhand and a more experienced and windswept captain? Alannah & Justin were our crew this evening, they made the boarding experience welcoming and efficient as they counted us onboard for the inaugural “Dreamtime on the Derbarl Yerrigan” as a part of Fringe World 2019.
This multi-levelled vessel is quite surprising as you enter for the first time, I was not sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised to find an elegant well-appointed lower deck with dance floor and bar area, alas not for us this evening as our show was about to begin and it was being held on the upper deck so up the steps we hustled.
Seating upstairs for this performance was theatre style, music from Yothu Yindi was playing in the background as we quickly found some comfy seats and settled down. I later discovered that 73 tickets had been sold for this performance and everyone one of them was in attendance. Our audience consisted of some school-aged children with their parents, a few teenagers, quite a few more mature aged patrons and a few who looked like Fringe World was their thing.
The gangway had now been removed and Alannah had all ropes untied so it was time to depart on our journey into Dreamtime. Justin gave us a safety briefing explaining the procedure in case of an emergency but assured as we won’t be needing any of that tonight! Fiona served me a nice cold beer from the bar and a glass of bubbles for my guest.
A small stage area had been set up with a few tapping sticks, coolamons, boomerangs and hand-made rugs as Meg McGuire welcomed us to tonight’s performance, explained some house rules (no videos and no flash photography) and then introduced her husband Walter onto the stage.
Elizabeth Quay passed out the windows as Walter welcomed us to the land of the Whadjuk people in his native Noongyar tongue, talked about his childhood growing up in Perth, the influence his parents and recognised elders had on himself and siblings and the importance of culture, language and customs passed down from generations.
An hour quickly past and we had been taken back in time, stories about the Wagyl, Karrgatup (king’s park), the execution of Midgegooroo and the murder of his son Yagan and the captivating Dreamtime story of the emu & the milky way.
Living by the six seasons, secret men’s business (which is still a secret to me), secret women’s business, sacred grounds, the location of burial grounds and the tradition of “door knocking” or lighting a fire as you arrive into new territory were all told in his quiet, unassuming and often humorous way.
Walter is a natural storyteller, his understanding of the lands in which we live, Perth’s ancient past and the interruption/invasion/settling of this land some 200 years ago comes across with deep reverence for his ancestors and their suffering. Walter explains we need to discuss and discover our past and only then can we progress into the future.
This show is not a history lesson or a lecture but just a descendant of traditional tribal clans passing down stories and knowledge, just like his ancestors have done for many thousands of years on this spot where I am standing now.