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19th November 2018

Yaralla House: Gateway to our culture

By Jonathan Hill

Image of Yaralla House: Gateway to our culture

24 October 2018
Poetic Learning workshops in collaboration with Sculpture by the Sea

It’s blowing a gale in Bondi today. The banksias in Marks Park are frenetic in the wind, beneath a sharp gray sky with sparse shifting cloud. A white capped swell surges violently into the base of the cliffs; the ocean spray settles upon the works of art which are scattered along the coast. Amidst the chaos we huddle together in a tight circle beside a unique sculpture that speaks to us all.

Gateway to our Culture by the Bankstown Koori Elders Group is an exquisite meditation, celebration and exploration of culture and community. Deeply intricate inscriptions etched upon handmade tiles reveal native animals, plants, natural land formations, campsites and Dreaming tracks. Before commencing our discussion we listen to the drone of the yidaki: an instrument as old as the earth itself.  We walk with curiosity and reverence around these tiles: observing, interpreting and gently touching the shallow grooves. Disparate narratives begin to form as each workshop participant shares their thoughts with a scribe. The notes are scribbled down fast as ideas begin to flow. We reform our circle and converse. The mood of the group has shifted from curiosity to introspection: deep introspection. Everyone wants to share their interpretation of this work.

I collate the notes and give myself 12 minutes to compose a group poem which melds the shared ideas. It is recited to the group beside the sculpture and is received with handshakes and hugs. In that moment we are our own community:  learning from each and learning from the land; entering the gateway that has been formed by this tiled creation.



A group poem by Yaralla House participants and Jonathan Hill.

This mosaic of music
still amidst the wind
that screams violently from the upturned sea.
These hands hold peace and harmony
along with the vivid memories
of freshly caught worms to fish.
Tears rise inside
as we cradle the concept of community
and fiercely dream of how we could be.
This culture, so strong and proud and timeless,
reflects our fractured connection and thinning humanity.
All at once we are engulfed by the ocean,
transformed into dolphins and whales,
exploring the mystery of shadowed perception,
free of gravity and fear.