Shellie Morris and the Borroloola Songwomen

For a change of pace, today I’m posting about a fabulous concert we heard on Sunday evening.  The performance was by Shellie Morris and the Borroloola Songwomen.  The women were all dressed in simple red tops and skirts with white headbands and feathers as well as ceremonial white painting on their faces and bodies.

The group was introduced by Marlandirri McCarthy, herself a Yanyuwa woman, as well as a Minister in the current NT government.  The audience was asked to stand for a minute’s silence to remember a family member of some of the group who had died in the last few days. It brings a whole new meaning to “the show must go on” when you know just how important sorry business is to Indigenous people.  Hopefully the joy everyone found in their performance brought them strength from sharing their language and culture.

Shellie Morris is an experienced performer who trained originally as an operatic singer. Her grandmother was a Yanyuwa woman but part of the Stolen Generations. Shellie has been welcomed back into Yanyuwa family and the complex network of family connections typical of Indigenous Australia. She did not speak language (the Indigenous language of the Borroloola people) but her family taught her words, the importance of culture and family, and translated her contemporary songs based on traditional culture.

The rest of the group were initially less confident performing in public, though previously they’d been on stage at the Sydney Opera House. It seemed to me that once they realised they had the audience with them, they blossomed which was great to see. One of the ladies in particular took to it like a duck to water and really enjoyed engaging with the crowd.

It was wonderful to listen to an entire concert sung in language (ie an Aboriginal language) and have the essence of the songs explained after the singing and dancing. The women’s pride in sharing this contemporary song about being Yanyuwa and saltwater people was evident. You can hear the women singing this song, Waliwaliyangu li-Anthawirriyarra a-Kurija at the Sydney Opera House on YouTube here. Please do listen to it: it brings me out in goosebumps and brought the audience on Sunday to a standing ovation.  I absolutely loved this concert, and if you ever have a chance, do go and see a performance.

You can listen to some of the songs from their CD album Together We Are Strong, Ngambala Wiji Li-Wunungu, on this site. And if you want to see the vast diversity of Aboriginal languages you can see an interactive map here.

After the Songwomen concert, we had a popped in for a look at the Pesona Indonesia celebration at the nearby amphitheatre.

One of the dancers sharing her culture at the Pesona Indonesia celebration.