I think I can safely say this event is likely to top our cultural highlights list for the year. Walking With Spirits is an annual indigenous event hosted by the people of Beswick, a small aboriginal community 111 km East of Katherine. Our tickets for this sold out event were purchased on-line back in Broome after Kris’s cousin Ros let us know about it, so we had been planning our itinerary around this weekend for the last month or so. Apart from seeing Ros and Sajeel again, the other highlight was that our other Lapper friends, the Whitemans, were also going to be there.
Everyone was breath tested on the way in to this 100% dry community, and although some cars were searched, luckily we weren’t. The penalty just for possessing grog in these areas include fines of up to $2,000. After checking in and receiving our official wrist bands, we bounced along 14 km of dusty 4WD track to the event location, a stunning billabong with a high cliff face on the far side forming a natural amphitheatre and backdrop for the stage.
With the temp nudging 37, we trudged down to the waterhole after setting up to cool off before gulping an early dinner and finding a spot on the sandy beach in front of the stage at dusk. Apart from seeing some local aboriginals practicing traditional dancing at the sign-in at Beswick, I really didn’t know what to expect.
Basically, the show was a celebration of indigenous cultures both local and some from further afield. There was dancing on stage by a group from East Timor as well as story telling in two indigenous languages and English with an accompanying Indonesian shadow puppet visual interpretation. There was some stellar corroboree style dancing on the sand by both the ‘Red Flag mob’ from Arnhem and the local Beswick mob. This was interspersed with contemporary jazz and country numbers by indigenous performers.
A standout performance was the local aboriginal hip-hop group, The Billabong Boys, a mix of boy band, hip-hop artists and acrobats – all with a thumping soundtrack. The crowd went off. We got our boys back to camp at about 10:30 that night, and fell asleep much later to the lulling drone of a lone didgeridoo.
Next morning we trouped back to the waterhole for another swim. I started to chatting to two local community kids, Djoby who was 10 and his younger cousin Harry, 7. Djoby was in the show and was keen to show off his acrobatic skills by back flipping off sand dunes.
English was their second language and whilst they were happy to play for awhile with our boys in the sand, they were happier with their own company. I also met Jeff McMullen of 60 minutes fame, who introduced the show last night. It turns out that he has been tirelessly promoting aboriginal rights and welfare for many years. He is obviously very passionate about the plight of indigenous peoples around the world.
After farewelling family and friends, we packed up and headed towards Mataranka for a well needed wash and soak in the thermal springs.