MULKA Place Names Katanning
MULKA is a creative exploration of the stories behind Noongar place naming in the South West, the largest block of Aboriginal place names anywhere in Australia.
The project aims to build cultural knowledge and understanding of Noongar culture through community education & celebration, support creative development and strengthen relationships.
MULKA: Place Names Katanning is produced by CAN in partnership with the Katanning Noongar Leadership Group, in collaboration with members of the Noongar communities from Katanning, Tambellup, Gnowangerup, Dumbleyung and Badgebup.
Through MULKA, Elders discovered that the names of places were not so much a word but a sentence of deeper meanings embedded in country. These sentences were linked to stories, often as a way to keep children safe and teach them cultural knowledge of place and identity.
The story of Mulka is significant for its place within the greater Noongar Dreaming, a story that has been handed down for generations. Mulka and Djinda were two spirit ancestors that moved across the land in the time before everything became real. Mulka, a ten-foot giant arrived in Katanning district and he was a mor worag (a very bad fella). He took their tiach (meat) and their york (women). Eventually the people came together for a big wongie (talk) and they made a decision to kill the giant. They chased him up around Hyden, north east of Katanning and decided to cut him up so he couldn’t come to life again. After it was done, they had a celebration at Eticup / Yeeticup.
The story of Djinda and Mulka will be transformed into an outdoor puppetry theatre performance taking over the Katanning town centre on Friday, 27 September. Follow Mulka and Djinda down Clive Street to a festival of Noongar arts and culture that brings the whole community together in a celebration of cultural diversity and First Nations Peoples. Enjoy food stalls, workshops, film, projections and performances from local artists and musicians.
The event will open the Sunsmart 2019 Bloom Festival presented by the Great Southern Treasures. We encourage everyone in the Great Southern to come along and experience this unique and important cultural event.
MULKA: Place Names Katanning is the culmination of many months work involving Elders and community members from Katanning and surrounding towns, as well as Katanning Primary and Senior High School students, who have been working alongside professional puppeteer Karen Hethey to create the Mulka, Djinda and Koolbardie (Magpie) puppets.
Place Names is produced by CAN and supported by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts Program and the Australia Council for the Arts, in partnership with Principal Partner Moodjar Consultancy and with support from the Shire of Katanning.
Image Credit: Caro Telfer
We acknowledge that the spelling and interpretation of Noongar words can vary greatly from community to community.
Bringing research, arts, culture and community together
Place Names is a five year program aimed at engaging communities across Noongar country and beyond in the Aboriginal stories, language and culture of each place. The project is an initiative based on Professor Len Collard’s long term research. CAN’s federally funded initiative aims to explore the meaning of towns and places with Noongar names, bringing them to life through film and art and encourage the use of the Noongar words for places that were used pre-colonisation.
Building on Professor Collard’s well-established research, CAN’s focus is to work closely with communities to explore the Noongar language origins of town and place names using a variety of contemporary art forms that reflect language, place and identity.
In 2017, CAN began creative community consultation in the Wagyl Kaip (Albany) and Whadjuk (Langford) area.
Place Names is a Community Arts Network Project supported through the Australian Government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts program, The Australia Council for the Arts and Principal Partner Moodjar Consultancy
Place Names – the research
Place names in the southwest of Western Australia are commonly derived from Noongar, the Aboriginal language of the region. However, the story of these place names is yet to be fully appreciated. As Noongar language is the basis of geographical nomenclature for many names for towns, localities and landmarks in the southwest, current, comprehensive and critical research and analysis of Noongar language documentation is required to interpret and reveal the ancient meanings of these names.
CAN is partnering with Albany’s Follow the Dream program to empower young Noongar people to document their culture, language, history, identity and sense of place through film.
According to the last census, there are less than 400 fluent speakers of Noongar language left. CAN documentary making program with the Follow the Dream students at Albany Senior High School and North Albany Senior High School has been a fun and inspiring to engage students to learning Noongar language, through interviewing Elders and learning more about the meaning of their local place names.
Through a series of intensive hands-on workshops, the young people learnt the process of making short films, including how to operate camera and sound equipment, filming techniques, scriptwriting and editing. The students also interviewed local Elders, enabling intergenerational cultural transmission along the way.
This project will culminate in a short documentary that celebrates the importance of language and its connection to place and identity and will be released in 2018.
Place Names – Weaving Workshops & Exhibition
3 – 13 July 2018, Vancouver Arts Centre, Albany
As part of NAIDOC week celebrations, CAN and Vancouver Arts Centre (VAC) invite participants and visitors to come along and learn about weaving with native and garden vegetation and increase their knowledge about Noongar place names, art, language and culture. Visit the exhibition, join in a workshop and share your stories.
Place Names Documentary
‘Noongar Boodja’, is a documentary made by young Aboriginal people from Albany. A stunning cinematic story that explores with Elders, significant places, their Noongar names and culture in Albany and surrounding areas. This film was developed as part of Community Arts Network (CAN) Place Names program, which looks to engage Noongar communities in exploring the meaning of language and culture through place.
“Noongar language to our culture is important, it’s our identity, it belongs to us, it’s significant, it’s special, and it’s the only one in the world. For us to ignore that is abandoning our being,” Lester Coyne, Menang Elder.
CAN’s Place Names project is a 5 year program that builds on the work of Professor Len Collard who has spent years researching the meanings of Noongar place names.
Culturally mapping Boodja and Wangkiny
In 2018, CAN brought together Co-Director of Moodjar Consultancy Professor Len Collard, Cultural Advisor Aunty Geri Hayden and artist Susie Vickery to explore the intersection of Noongar language, local knowledge and artistry. The Project was facilitated by CAN Project Coordinator Natalie Scholtz. CAN partnered with Langford Aboriginal Association to develop the creative and artistic skills of emerging artists at the Langford Aboriginal Centre in two stages.
In the first stage of development more than 45 participants attended a series of arts development workshops drawing upon Professor Len Collard’s Placenames research. Participants explored their sense of place and other related themes of culture, language, history and identity using various art mediums.
In the second stage of creative development, CAN engaged renowned textile artist Susie Vickery to work more closely with 13 participants who created a stunning textile map of Langford using metres of recycled denim, mixed textiles and a range of tapestry techniques including specialised embroidery, stitching, and applique skills. Through this process, participants deepened their understanding of Noongar boodja (land), wang
‘Working on this project has been the most inspiring and exciting experience for me. I have never worked on something like this before.’
– Linda Carlsson