Listening and Learning: The 2017 Goldfields-Esperance Culture Camp
Creative community works are best when they reflect what the community honestly cares about, when they carry the unique voice of a community out into the wider world.
At the end of 2016, Country Arts WA Network Director Barb Howard went out to an old creek bed to have a proper yarn with members of the Goldfields-Esperance community she had spent the last few years with.
That discussion, and those that followed, helped to shape a “Culture Camp” for 2017. The idea was that young people would be able to immerse themselves in the culture carried by their elders – a culture those elders feared they were losing touch with – and out of this sharing of stories would come a creative work which would spread the culture even further.
The idea was not entirely unprecedented, the 2014 Regional Arts Summit in Kalgoorlie got people talking, and by 2016 the Emu Dreaming Project was started to teach young people in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder community traditional dance.
We caught up with Jacqui Spurling, who teaches Indigenous language to many of the young people involved in the Emu Dreaming Project and the 2017 Culture Camp. She told us the kids thought these projects were fantastic, and they want to do more.
The traditional dances being taught were sacred dances and weren’t really intended for performance – so they had to be given a bit of a “modern spin” to avoid breaking traditional rules.
“The kids got a feel of true traditional culture, true traditional dance, but also the exhilaration of performing in front of others, of creating a performance meant for others.”
The project brought in kids who didn’t engage with school. Some students who usually avoided class started coming in to practice dance for hours on end.
She says that the Culture Camp was an attempt to bring that idea forward.
“We wanted to re-live what we did before, but this time immerse them in the culture beforehand, because we didn’t get the chance to last time.
“The idea is when you’re on a camp like this you get a deeper culture understanding. You hear it from an elder, then absorb it, fully take it in – our word is kulila – you don’t just listen with your ears but with your eyes, with every part of your feeling, you listen with all you’ve got. That’s what immerses you in the culture.
“Once they’re in that culture they can see the story in the world all around them, and apply it to performance. The kids, they own that now, they really take on the performance, really make it something spectacular.”
Young people from the Culture Camp performed their piece; How Language Came to Be, for NAIDOC week 2017 in Kalgoorlie-Boulder – and Jacqui says it had an “absolutely profound effect on everyone.”
“All the kids and all the adults involved – to see their confidence rise is absolutely fantastic. We had kids that wouldn’t even talk to anybody, so shy, but in a performance in front of everybody, in front of hundreds of people they’ll really shine.
“The parents are more involved in their kids life now – they have new pride in their children from performing.”
The Culture Camp was made possible through Country Arts WA’s Focus Region project. You can support regional arts programs like this through our giving program. Help us cultivate even more creative successes in regional WA. Give the gift that keeps giving this Christmas and give to regional arts and culture. You can give today here.