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Reviews/Perth Festival/Theatre

Retelling stories to rekindle the fire

23 February 2021

Journeying through time and space, Galup, by Ian Wilkes and Poppy van Oorde-Grainger, takes audiences on a walking tour that reclaims Noongar history, writes Kobi Morrison.

Galup, Ian Wilkes and Poppy van Oorde-Grainger, with Doolann Leisha Eatts ·
Lake Monger Reserve, 18 February 2021 ·

Nidja kep wer boodja kwerl galup
This water and land is titled “place of fire

Stepping into the gorgeous place known as Galup (Lake Monger Reserve) on Thursday evening, I find myself transported back in time almost 200 years, to a period of both beauty and conflict. An immersive walking tour presented as part of Perth Festival, Galup enables its audience to inhabit the true stories that have taken place on Wadjuk Lands, stories of the Noongar/Wadjela (white) relationship that, like many others, consist of tensions and contrasting intentions.

Outside of the Noongar community, these events are often little-known and/or told from a Wadjela perspective. These stories, too, contain a wide range of emotions which have been beautifully portrayed in Galup by Noongar performer/writer Ian Wilkes and writer/director/producer Poppy van Oorde-Grainger.

Koorliny bidi-k koora
Moving along a path to the past

Upon arrival we are presented with a cosy circle of picnic blankets as we wait for the Birdiya (boss), Wilkes, to greet us. On Thursday night, the audience is comprised of just 15 people which makes for a comfortable, uncluttered journey. Wilkes brings a sense of gentle leadership that is reminiscent of the lake’s original leaders. As the group walks in single file over a footbridge that leads to the lake, this public amenity – designed for everyday use – seems to be transformed into a monument of ceremony that marks the beginning of this journey. Arriving beside the lake the group is submerged in smoke, in keeping with Noongar tradition for arriving visitors.

Mayakowa-k nyinalanginy ba kaditj
Echos of meetings and minds

As we journey through the storyline, Galup allows us time to contemplate and admire the world around us. Leading the way, Wilkes takes on the personas of multiple people from this area’s local history, including Yagan, a Noongar leader who resisted the European settling of Noongar land, and Robert Dale, an early settler in the Swan River Colony who was involved in hostile confrontations at Galup/Lake Monger and, after Yagan’s death, took his head to England. Wilkes’ ability to switch seamlessly between a variety of characters is notable, in particular the stark contrast between his gentle guidance and the hard-lined leadership of Yagan and Dale. These characters draw the audience into the past, and gives us insight into the multiple histories of the local area, revealing the tensions of relations between the Noongar and Wadjela communities that have not been widely acknowledged or discussed.

Nidja kaarla bandang bina-k
The fire is continuously alight

We finish our walk at another circle of picnic blankets, this time surrounding a camp fire on the bank of the lake, a kwobidak (beautiful) physical representation of the word “galup”, which means “the place of fires”. The audience sits in a circle and listens to Noongar elder Doolann Leisha Eatts tell her own story, followed by a Q&A with Wilkes and the talented van Oorde-Grainger. It is through this discussion that the audience can fully appreciate the sheer amount of research that had been done in order to create this brilliant and evocative work.

Galup is moving and transporting; an intercultural, collaborative retelling of history, that holds a powerful reminder of how the Noongar spiritual fire can remain alight.

Galup continues until 13 March 2021.

Pictured top is Ian Wilkes, leading a group through ‘Galup’. Photo: Daniel Grant

This article was amended February 25, to correct the spelling of Doolann Leisha Eatts’ name, and the name and details of William Leeder to Robert Dale.

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Author —
Kobi Morrison

Emerging writer Kobi Morrison is a 27 year old Bibbulmun Noongar who was born and raised in Perth. While working at the UWA Centre of Social Impact and Propel Youth Arts WA, Kobi spends his spare time playing music, being involved in various music projects such as Moombaki, Koondarm, Koorlong, Madjitil Moorna and Endeavourous. These are projects that earned him the 2018 Perth NAIDOC Youth of the Year award.

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