Songlines & Sightlines text

by beth sorensen

Warami. Hello.

Budyari naami Darug nura!

Great to see you on Darug Country!

Songlines & Sightlines – Colouring-in Blackown is an invitation to consider Blacktown’s past, present and future. The project is a collaboration between Darug artists and knowledge holders Leanne Mulgo Watson and Erin Wilkins, with artist and architect Peter Rush, and featuring additional images by the late Bundeluk Watson.

Songlines are the Dreaming pathways that the ancestral beings travelled along to create country while singing the land to life. Songlines are the oral maps connecting all countries and people together while guiding them across the lands as they travel; Darug people sing stories of the landscape teaching them the locations, migration and significance of each place.

In the reception area are the stars and moon, which symbolise the darkness before the Dreaming. Opposite the main gallery entrance is the Mariung in the sky, the emu that appears in the dark areas of what is otherwise known as the Milky Way.

When you enter, you are greeted by the first sunrise and Gurangatty, the eel creator being who made the mountains and the rivers. Then there are the birds who created everything else. The lyrebird is first because it has all the sounds of the other birds and animals. In the tree are two brown birds, who were created before the other birds got their colours. The eagle was sent down into the landscape to create the land animals. There is always a crow behind the eagle – watch out for them next time in the sky!

The possum and the flying fox are the Darug totems for women and men respectively, signifying the creation of people. Underneath is the first meeting place — the concentric circles surrounded by U shapes representing people sitting. There are meeting places drawn throughout the exhibition with some left empty for you to complete with your own U-shaped symbols.

The songlines are represented through footprints and animals. The cycle moves in one direction; the footprints and animals all face the same way. Follow the footsteps and you will pass a canoe, bullrushes, a large meeting place and a watering hole, signifying the vibrant way of life that Darug people enjoyed for millennia.

Keep following and you will traverse the Blacktown Native Institute site. This was the site of the first stolen generation, the place that Darug children were held when they were forcibly removed from their families. The women would sit and wail behind the bullrushes, mourning their children. The site was handed back to the Darug people in 2018 and is now a place for ceremony and healing. The native institute building no longer exists, there’s just an old grain silo from a later period amidst a grassy expanse where kangaroos come to graze.

The next area symbolises home — a gunya and suburban houses. Follow the footsteps around the Blacktown city centre, past the shops and restaurants on Main Street and Sunnyholt Road. Blacktown is home to many and everyone is welcome here. Add your favourite places and secret spaces, memories and messages for our ever-changing city.

To complete the cycle of life, Darug people believe that we enter through the smoke and return to the stars. When it’s time to come back to earth, we kick out our campfire and return as a falling star. Please take a sticker and add your star to the night sky to symbolise the end of your journey.

Darug language word list

minak                     darkness
barabiyanga          morning before sunrise
yanada                   moon
warrawal               milky way
mariung                 emu
guwing                   sun
Darug nura            Darug Country
gadjal                     smoke
gimbawali              stars (many stars / big stars)

We acknowledge the Darug people who are the traditional owners of this Land. We pay our respects to Darug Elders past and present, and thank them for their Custodianship.

Thank you to Darug knowledge holders Leanne Mulgo Watson and Erin Wilkins for providing cultural knowledge and language for this project. This always was and always will be Darug Nura.