11 Stories from the river Dyarubbin

Marri Badu Muru – Big Water Path, by Leanne Mulgo Watson © 2022

11 Stories from the river Dyarubbin is a series of 11 audio walks sharing stories of the river at the places where they happened : streamable from your mobile phone at 11 public locations along Dyarubbin / the Hawkesbury River between Yarramundi and Sackville, or from your favourite place to listen… a collaborative public art work aiming to inspire, inform and deepen the listener’s experience of the river. 

The audio-walks launched in May 2022 with a live performance at Hawkesbury Regional Museum and the release of the first Audio Walk – Howe and Deerubbin Parks Audio Walk – Balga Ngurrang / Windsor is available to stream from Hawkesbury Regional Museum’s website. This walk commences at the Museum in Windsor and takes the listener along the river from there.

Underscored by an original 11 part music and sound work, the audio walks share stories of deep time, geology and moving sands, of Dyarubbin’s first people and their enduring relationship with the river, of first contact and settlement along her fertile plains, of two kinds of farming, of ongoing dispossession of the Dharug – the first farmers, of flood and near famine, of dams, development, wastewater and pollutants, of the Eel carved into her rock banks, of the river as playground, waterhole and host of algal blooms, of Dyarubbin’s dreaming and songlines, of what sustainability and rights for the river might look like…

Yarramundi Audio Walk was released in September 2022

9 more audio walks are in production and will be released throughout 2022 and 2023 at signposted locations along the river between Yarramundi (Grose River confluence) and Sackville, culminating with an exhibition in May 2023 at Hawkesbury Regional Museum in Balga Ngurrang / Windsor.

ARTIST STATEMENT AND THANKS

Having grown up with the bush as my backyard on Upper Cowan Creek on the lower Hawkesbury and for the last 20 years making my home on Wheeny Creek on the Upper Hawkesbury in Dharug / Darkinjung country, this ancient river system has been a constant source of inspiration to me. 

This project is an offering of deep respect to this river country that is my home and seeks to bring to light the rivers underbelly – her stories, moves, and generosity…to inspire better relationships between people and place, to invite listeners to better know and understand Dyarubbin and the people who have cared for this Country for at least 60 000 years. The stories are all around us, the river’s history tells us clearly, Aboriginal people continue to shine a light on what true custodianship of Country looks like.

It would not have been possible without the generous support and collaboration of Hawkesbury Regional Museum’s Kath Von Witt, Elissa Blair and Rebecca Turnbull, Dharug Custodians Leanne Watson, Erin Wilkins, Jasmine Seymour and Rhiannon Wright, Hawkesbury Historical Society & their President, historian Jan Barkley-Jack, Western Sydney University scientists Jen Dollin, Ian Wright, Michelle Ryan and Basant Maheswari, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of NSW Grace Karskens and the gift of Dharug and Darkinjung place names that her research brought to light, and over 100 wonderful interviewees, children and artists who have shared their love of this beautiful river. Didyarigura Thank you

Thank you also to Hawkesbury Environment Network, Windsor Public, Windsor South Public and Windsor High Schools, Hawkesbury Independent School and Brewongle Environmental Education Centre. And to my family who lost me for a time to the river….thank you. Marri Didyarigura.

DEVELOPMENT – 2019 – 2021

With development funding from the NSW Government through Create NSW, in 2019/20 I worked with local knowledge holders, recording stories with WSU Scientists Dr Ian Wright, Dr Michelle Wright, Dr Jason Reynolds, Professor Basant Maheshwari, Darug custodians Leanne Watson, Erin Wilkins and Jasmine Seymour, Historians Jan Barkley-Jack and Professor Grace Karskens, Geologist Gil Jones, River Advocate and long time Hawkesbury MP Kevin Rozzoli, Geologist Associate Professor Tom Hubble, Geomorphologist Professor Kirstie Fryirs and stories, knowledge and experiences shared by the wider community.

With photographers Lyndal Irons and Sarah Rhodes, I recorded images and sounds along the river, including underwater recordings. Listening, watching, learning from the river, from Country, to create a music work that reflects the rivers moods and stories.

In 2019 workshops were held along the river at Yarramundi, Windsor and in schools with students from Windsor High, Windsor Public and Hawkesbury Independent Schools, sharing stories with Dharug educator Erin Wilkins and facilitating a creative response from students through poetry, music and art. Work created by students will be part of the audio walks series.

Dharug educator Erin Wilkins with Windsor Public Students
Windsor High students building sculptures in the Grose River near the Hawkesbury
Sculpture in the sand at Yarramundi made by Windsor High students
Windsor High student drawing inspiration from the river
Artwork by Windsor High students
Making a river of sounds with students at Hawkesbury Independent School
River Artwork by Hawkesbury Independent School student
At the river with Windsor Public students
Breaking down the beats in 11 time with Windsor Public students

THE MUSIC

I’ve written an 11 part music work for the project, in 11 time, playing with rhythms in 11, for piano, guitar, cello, percussion, clarinet, violin, bass, voices, field recordings, birdsong and samples from the river.

Rivers are mathematically beautiful…the number 11 in the project comes from Geomorpholgist Luna Leopold’s river meandering theory, where the length of a meander is on average 11 times the river’s width. This story is shared by Geomorphologist Kirstie Fryirs in the Howe and Deerubbin Parks Audio Walk

In 2020/21 further funding from the NSW Government through Create NSW enabled me to finalise, workshop and bring Dharug voices into the score with Dharug songwriters Stacy-Jane Etal, and Jasmine Seymour. In February 2021, I workshopped the music at Hawkesbury Regional Museum with musicians Gary Daley, Dimitri Vouros, Jess Ciampa, Mary Rapp, Rob Shannon, Barbara Webb and Kevin Adams.

Workshopping the project music at Hawkesbury Regional Museum Feb 2021

In 2021 I produced a radio feature for ABC RN Yarramundi and the people of Dyarubbin on the Dharug people and their enduring relationship with this river country for ABC Radio National’s History Listen, incorporating music and interviews from the development of the 11 stories project, featuring Dharug knowledge holders Leanne Watson, Erin Wilkins, Jasmine Seymour and Rhiannon Wright and Emeritus Professor of History at UNSW Grace Karskens.

Assistance from the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body and Musuems and Galleries NSW, enabled the commissioning of project artwork from Leanne Mulgo Watson, Marri Badu MuruBig Water Path (above ) and Wiyanga BaduMother Water (below) and production of the 11 audio walks, culminating in an exhibition in April 2023 at Hawkesbury Regional Museum. The 11 audio walks will be hosted on the Museum’s website, as well as being available to stream via QR codes from 11 sign posted sites along the river.

Wiyanga Badu – Mother Water, by Leanne Mulgo Watson © 2022

The project is supported by Hawkesbury Regional Museum, Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation, Hawkesbury Historical Society, Western Sydney University Sustainable Futures, Hawkesbury Environment Network, Windsor Public School, Windsor High School, Hawkesbury Independent School and Brewongle Environmental Education Centre.

11 Stories From the River Dyarubbin has been supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW

11 Stories From the River Dyarubbin has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body

I acknowledge the Darug and Darkinjung people, the original custodians of the country where I live and work. I recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture and offer my deep respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.
This land was never ceded, always was, always will be Aboriginal land.