Ringbalin is a Ngarrindjeri word meaning gathering of the tribes.
In 2010 during the worst drought in living memory, possibly ever, The Murray Darling River system was in a very bad way. When Aunty Cheryl Buchanan (Guwamu Nation, South Western Queensland) visited South Australia’s much-loved Coorong National Park – at the mouth of the once mighty Murray – she had a vision of death. Far up stream on Aunty Cherly’s traditional lands things were also looking pretty miserable … to say the least. Then in April 2010 Ngarrindjeri Elder Major Sumner from the Coorong brought different river tribes together to heal the rivers. Starting on Aunty Cheryl’s Murra Murra Station east of Cunnamulla they performed a series of River Country Spirit Ceremonies, dancing and healing the spirit of the land all the way down 2000kms to the Coorong. Film makers Ben Pederick and Ali Sanderson (Goodmorningbeautiful Films) followed the traditional owners over a period of several years making a documentary, Ringbalin, that was shown to a large, eager audience at the Canberra International Film Festival last night.
The dance ceremonies were led and performed by Major Sumner, and the Ngarrindjeri Tal-kin-jeri Dance Group, the Guwamu dancers (led by Cheryl Buchanan), Uncle Peter Williams and the Ngemba dancers, as well as other dances from regional towns along the Darling and the Murray. Not long into the journey, at Wilcannia, a few spots of rain soon turned into a deluge … and the rest is history. Ringbalin: Breaking the Drought is a great account of people reconnecting with their ancestors and cultures, bringing life back to the land through ancient ceremonies. There was a Q&A after the film chaired by Virginia Haussegger (ABC) with Elders Aunty Cheryl Buchanan , Aunty Ellen Trevorrow, Ngarrindjeri Elder, plus Director Ben Pederick. This was a rare opportunity to meet the people who were actually involved and hear their personal stories. It was a session you come away from feeling you have learned more about Australia in 90 minutes than in an entire lifetime.
Ringbalin was sponsored by the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MBDA) and the documentary by Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corporation. Goodmorningbeautiful have developed a mobile app that will allow you to travel through the Darling and Murray Rivers guided by the Elders of different river tribes. And you can donate money for the production of the app at Indiegogo. Gogo, go for it.
photos: Ali Sanderson