…Indigenous writers, actors, playwrights, film and documentary makers and musicians from across Australia, dropped into a little place called Fremantle (Western Australia) to put their collective heads together, and shared their yarning abilities with us wannabes.
This event was called the National Indigenous Storytellers Forum – the first of it’s kind – and was perhaps one of the most humbling gatherings of like minded peoples, I’ve ever had the pleasure to attend. Brought to us by the Department of the Culture and the Arts, we descended upon the FTI mob in Freo, keen to hear what other Indigenous people were thinking about this business we call Yarning.
Storytelling done well is like an oceans wave; it carries an enormous amount of weight behind it, gathering up everything in it’s path and delivering it to whatever shore it might crash upon with such an innate sense of purpose – you can’t help but feel that story was meant especially for you. A good yarn is like that. It’s rooted well in a peoples ‘Past’, it has a keen eye for their ‘Future’, and it draws nicely upon their ‘Today’.
A good yarn should fit you like an old coat, and the person spinning that yarn must be able to measure you up for an exact fit, the moment his or her mouth opens and they start sharing. It’s being given to you see – and the person yarning with you wants you to keep it – not throw it away. Yarns are a living thing; we breathe life into them, make them our own, help them to grow, and we seek to do only one thing well in our life with them, and that is – pass them onto you.
A good yarn has no straight lines taking you from ‘A’ to ‘B’. It might even start you somewhere over at ‘H’, only to pass by ‘C’, as you wander on over to ‘K’, just to find out what ‘R’ is doing. If you’re in the presence of a gifted yarn teller – you won’t even know this is happening, and you’ll be content to go for the ride, knowing eventually it’ll take you somewhere, and that you’ll come out the other end – carrying away a little ‘something’ extra trapped up in your ‘brainbox’, and you’ll be smiling about it.
I met many people at this Forum who use many different mediums for telling their yarns. There were people who spoke, people who wrote, people who sang songs, people who acted, people who filmed, people who directed such films, and the people who produced them. To me, they represented people who thought, people who felt, people who survived, and people who had suffered – people who celebrated their lives – and had earned the right to do so. It was a remarkably humble group of people who shared their yarns and experiences – and unwittingly – their emotions.
In the week following a national apology across this country for decisions made against an Indigenous Peoples based on the colour of their skin, a relatively large group of talented Indigenous professionals gathered and offered hope and solace to a group of Indigenous wannabes – like me. They told us how they felt, offered up those things that worked for them, and showed us that if we wanted to aim for the top – we could. It seemed a fitting addition to the feel of a nation, still trying on it’s new hat – “Sorry” – and looking a little uncomfortable with it.
Those of you I briefly met, listened to, watched, and felt; I’d like to give you all space here in my ‘little world’ on the internet, to show you how the forum reached out and touched me. You’ve re-ignited my inspiration and more importantly – my passion, and I have to tell you – it was sure struggling! You’ve helped me get back on the path of yarning as I see it. I feel incredibly lucky to have met you all and heard a little of the yarns you bring to the world. I hope what I can do now is live up to it. As the responsibility of it all frightens the absolute buggery out of me.
So cheers Uncle Neville, Aunty Janet, Trevor, Fred, Gary, Uncle Baamba, Aunty Dot, Gina, Anita, Uncle Alf, Kim, David, Dalisa, Lorrae, Sylvester and all those of you I couldn’t possibly list – there was simply too many of you. You all touched and inspired a group of people – probably well beyond your imagining! When you put yourself out for public display, you always give away more of yourself then you ever intend to do. When you do this to share a yarn – you give away much more than usual – simply because the yarn is you! I believe this take an incredible amount of strength and character, and I’m glad to have heard a little of this – from all of you.
Thanks also goes to Gina, Roz and Michelle (and anyone else I’m missing here) for making it possible. It was a great event, and thankfully – my hope continues to grow.
Belongum – Out!