Song workshops keep culture strong in Borroloola

MUSIC TIME: Shellie Morris with Yanyuwa songwoman Dinah Norman. Picture: supplied.
MUSIC TIME: Shellie Morris with Yanyuwa songwoman Dinah Norman. Picture: supplied.

The oral tradition of passing down knowledge through music and storytelling is alive and well in Borroloola.

Award-winning musician, composer and storyteller Shellie Morris returns to Borroloola to run workshops with the current and next generation of song women and men. 

Ms Morris will work with Yanyuwa, Mara, Garrwa and Gurdanji seniors for more than three weeks. 

She will help senior signers pass songs to a new cohort of singers to ensure the continuation of culture and maintain the important role of the song woman and man.

The workshops are a direct response to a need identified at the Malandarri Festival, presented by Artback NT in June. 

Recognising a decline in the number of song men and women able to perform at traditional performances, clans invited Shellie Morris, who has family connections to Yanyuwa, to host singing and language workshops.   

Malandarri Festival director and Cultural Events officer Marlene Timothy said artback NT was proud to facilitate this important opportunity for inter-cultural exchange.

“I’m really looking forward to this project, it means a lot to us to keep our language and culture strong,” Ms Timothy said.

“The ladies here in Borroloola and Robinson River are looking forward to having Shellie in the community to help share their songs and stories with the younger ones.

“This dedicated time to start learning and taking over the songs, this is really important to keep that alive.” 

Shellie Morris said “coming home to the country of my grandmother is incredibly special”.

“Artback NT and Malandarri Festival have created the space and time for us to sit and share and pass on knowledge through song and storytelling which is incredibly important for us as we walk in two worlds.”