‘To Come Back” is the meaning for the new feature at Barangaroo, WELLAMA, a Cadigal word, its an invitation to experience the spirit of EORA country through art.
Created by artists Alison Page and Nik Lachajczak, Wellama is a celebration of ritual, ceremony and story practised on Country since time immemorial. It welcomes visitors to Gadigal Country and pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of this land. The work is not intended to ever to replace the traditional welcome by elders, but to strengthen the meaning of that ceremony and enhance people’s understanding of its importance among all Australians.
It is a 10 minute audio visual art loop that plays continuously and welcomes visitors to land, sea and sky country at Barangaroo. The work captures the essence of the ‘Welcome to Country’ by creating a visceral, and emotional experience that is a celebration of the continuity of culture through ceremony and the cycles of nature.
The display has no distinctly discernible beginning or end. A continuous visual narrative that is able to be engaged at any point in the film reflecting the indigenous notions of time; unbroken, diving in and out of the past and present. The pulse and vibration of the work brings an aural and visual engagement that draws the audience into feeling they are deep diving through the cyclical nature within the heartbeat of the country itself. A feeling of being invited into a rich world of rhythms and ceremony, of time and tides – the country breathing in and out that is coupled with an ancient human connectivity that still permeates this land. It has created a vast and continuous compendium of knowledge and vibrational lore that represents today’s ever evolving Australia.
The artwork tells the story of the EORA people; past and present. The story of Barangaroo and the Eora fisherwomen is the central narrative; with the older women guiding the young girl through her transition to womanhood in traditional times as well as today. The tying of the young girls finger in the ceremony was a traditional Eora practice, where the finger would drop off and be sacrificed to the sea to ensure her prowess as a fisherwoman. The ceremony is continued in modern Sydney, with the young girl diving deep into Sydney Harbour to connect with the spirit of sea country. The older woman teaches the young girl about traditional medicinal practices, acknowledging the depth and breadth of traditional knowledge.
Fire stick farming and indigenous seasons are referenced in the scene where the young girl brings the rain. The traditional camp scenes were filmed as an homage to the early paintings of Eora people on Sydney Harbour, which have become important cultural references for urban indigenous communities whose traditional practices were not only disrupted but in some cases outlawed in the early colony. The filming of these scenes with local communities was a reclamation of this idyll and strengthens the cultural revival being practiced in Sydney today.
The young man dressed as local indigenous warrior Pemulwuy embodies this desire to reconnect with the past as he gathers food in a landscape of concrete and glass, connecting to the very place where his Ancestors once hunted. As does Uncle Allen Madden, the Elder who visits the rock carvings in Kuringai National Park to remember Barangaroo.
The work is rich in cinematic vision of country and the connection of people to it and is a timeless representation of the Eora nation.