Barangaroo Ngangamay

Discover this extraordinary suite of evocative short films that celebrate the legacy of Aboriginal leader Barangaroo with snapshots of local Aboriginal life and culture.

Visitors to Barangaroo Reserve can now experience snapshots of local Aboriginal life and culture with the unveiling of Barangaroo Ngangamay, an immersive multimedia artwork created by Aboriginal artists and curators Amanda Jane Reynolds and Genevieve Grieves.

Barangaroo Artistic Associates Genevieve Grieves and Amanda Jane Reynolds

Barangaroo Ngangamay (Barangaroo Dreaming) is a series of five short films to be viewed by visitors on their phones or tablet devices as they explore Barangaroo Reserve. The artwork is designed to give viewers a deeper understanding of the area’s rich Aboriginal history and heritage, and to share the story of Barangaroo, the strong Cammeraygal woman after whom the area is named.

Rock engravings in the Reserve act as a key to unlock the short films depicting the life cycles of the sun, moon and women. Each film is accessible to visitors via a geo-location app, which plays the films when approaching the engravings.

 

The five short films were written by Reynolds and directed by Grieves, and offer glimpses into the various stages in a woman’s life. The work was captured by award-winning cinematographer Bonnie Elliot (These Final Hours, Spear and The Turning) and the result is both visually stunning and moving. 

The first film was shot at dawn and celebrates ‘grandmother time’, a time for collecting dew drops and bush medicine as the kookaburra call rings out over the bush.

The next film depicts family time, when the women and children escape the day’s heat under the shade of a tree, the women singing teaching songs to pass knowledge between the generations.

Another film shows the day’s end, under a beautiful full moon, as different generations of women gather on a beach at La Perouse in Sydney to take part in a ceremony around the campfire, singing, dancing and beating possum skin drums.

“We’re calling it a modern day song cycle,” says Reynolds. “Just as plays and operas and novels are all really important traditional structures in other cultures, a song cycle is a really important structure to Aboriginal people.

“We wanted to draw inspiration from the song cycle but create something new that spoke to the old and to the future.”

The films have been inspired by and include local women. Corina Marino wrote and sings the Waradah song that accompanies the third film, which also featuring her son Malakai.

Members of the Djaadjawaan dance troupe helped choreograph and perform in the second film. Lille Madden composed the haunting song of the fourth film. Along with her sister Madeleine Madden and cousin Miah Madden, the three young Gadigal women are seen painting up at sunset at Barangaroo Reserve, using ochre from the site, quietly dancing and singing as the cityscape lights up behind them.

“There are so many beautiful and talented women in our communities who have so much to give in different ways and we wanted to have room to bring in other people’s creativity,” Reynolds says.

“That structure was really important to us, to bring in those families and the different ages of the women, from baby Arabella to the women fishing and feeding the families to Aunty Lois, the grandmother. We wanted to create a structure that would really bring out the fact that women of all ages are incredibly valuable and have something unique and special,” says Reynolds.

While their focus was to honour and celebrate women’s culture and Barangaroo herself, Reynolds and Grieves were also determined to involve local Aboriginal men. They invited local Elders Vic Simms, Steven Russell and Laurie Bimson to hand carve five engravings into the Barangaroo sandstone using centuries-old tools such as stones, mallets and chisels. The engravings depict the crescent moon, scar tree and echidna.

“Senior men who carry the knowledge came in and marked the site. And that’s the way they looked at it, with the seriousness that it’s really important business,” says Reynolds.

Beautiful artworks in themselves, the engravings trigger the contemporary technology that enables the five short films associated with them to start screening on visitors’ mobile devices. The artists hope this technology will ensure the project appeals to a broad range of ages.

They also hope visitors will gain a better understanding of the local area, its people and this vibrant living culture, and want to learn more.

"It’s about helping all Australians to respect that deep cultural and ecological knowledge,” Grieves says. “And to think about the future, how we can all live in this place and in this planet better.  There are cultures in this Sydney region that are so strong, and anyone who watches this films will get that sense of continuation of culture, of strong women, of languages being spoken.”

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