After more than three months in the Northern Territory working as choreographer/director of the Springvale Corroboree at Katherine I am now on my way out of Australia. Out for good. Quite disillusioned with the state of this country and not receiving any support in my grant applications, means there is nothing for me here.
This country is made of tourist promoters, mining executives and real estate agents. The heros are football players. The common man sees Jimmy Barnes as his link to art.
When I came to work in Katherine I came under the expectation that there may be some social problems to deal with as well as the job which was advertised of artistically turning the Corroboree into a more professional venture. I had naive and high hopes.
In fact I am lucky to have had this opportunity because it never should have been this way in the first place. How can a white man choreograph traditional tribal dances? I haven’t stopped telling them that.
The job was impossible. The alcohol problem is massive. The social and political problems involved in this work mean that at this stage it is impossible to regulate and form a more professional Corroboree.
If it were possible, then a resource team of three would be the minimum number needed to work on it. I am exhausted from being minder, driver, technician, organiser, provider, administrator, washing person, food preparer and energy inspirer. There is also perhaps half an hour a day I could say I spent on theatrical direction.
Aboriginal culture is fantastic. The following is the introductory part of the corroboree, dramatised, I worked with them on. The dreamtime story- how Birit Birit, the rainbow bird, gave fire to Norgorcor, the first creator.
Mordjaki was a warrior. A terrible warrior who frightened everyone.
Mordjaki had the fire sticks and was the only one who could make fire. Everyone else ate their meat raw. The tribes people were not content and Kaimoree went to take the fire sticks from Mordjaki but Mordjaki killed him. Najara Wilk Wilk went in search of his fellow tribes man and when he came upon Mordjaki he too was killed.
Then came Birit Birit, a wise man, to the tribe. He asked why everyone was unhappy. They told him they had no fire and were cold and had to eat their meat raw. Birit Birit asked if anyone had tried to get the fire sticks from Mordjaki. They said they had all tried but it was no good. Mordjaki was too greedy and too fierce.
Birit Birit went away and painted himself white all over. He grew feathers and transformed himself into a bird. He swooped through the gully’s down the ridges and to the place where Mordjaki was camped. Then like an arrow he shot down and took those fire sticks from the hands of Mordjaki. Mordjaki chased him as fast as he could but Birit Birit flew into the sky and was gone.
Mordjaki was beaten and ashamed. Embarrassed he shrunk down and crawled to the river where he dived in and stayed. He lives there today. Mordjaki the crocodile.
Birit Birit returned to the people and shared the fire sticks with Nagorcor, the first creator. Today Birit Birit still has those fire sticks and you see him flying with them hanging at his tail. He is called the Rainbow bird. Nagorcor created all the laws, ”skin names, dreaming and tribal customs. He was the first of the Yirritja, a giant ten feet tall, like the first people, the Mimi. Nabima was the first Dhuwa. When he had passed on the art of making fire to his people he took a leap from the river at Mambaloo crossing and flew away. His last footprint can still be seen there today in the rock.
This is the level of symbolism these people still have and this is the surface. Everything has its place, everyone holds a function in the make up of the world. All is connected through the dreaming. All is fucked by white man culture symbolized most potently in the form of green tins of VB and the silver bladders from casks of moselle, which litter the Katherine country side. End!