• MBA

Rituals of Place...

Although this is not our lounge room, it looks awfully like it, with paintings propped up against the walls and books "piled like stalagmites from floor to ceiling-they are our walls", a line from HOME, a play that we wrote and performed at La Boite and Queensland Theatre a few years ago.

Like many people, we surround ourselves with books because they provide us with a wealth of material, a wellspring if you like, to create the rituals we need at certain times. When we tour performances (and right now we are touring La Boite's PrizeFighter written by Future Fidel and performed by a brilliant ensemble of actors including brothers Pacharo and Gideon Mzembe), I take my library with me, but in e-book form, apart from one or two hard copy books just in case technology fails. On my e-book device there are hundreds of books and I delight each day in scrolling through to see what catches my eye. But today, our first full day in Newcastle NSW, I reach for my hard copy of Sharon Blackie's book "If Women Rose Rooted: The Journey to Authenticity and Belonging".

This is a book I would have liked to have written. It focuses on important themes like the power of place and the importance of mythology as we transform our future, something that Indigenous Australians have been very clear about for centuries.

For example Blackie talks about the wellspring:

"Wellspring. The word, like a good well, runs deep. It conveys so very much more than simply the source of a stream or spring; it says something about the source of life itself...'a source of continual or abundant supply'...These wells once were thought of as gateways to the Celtic Otherworld. Magical fish which lived in them might sometimes appear to those who came seeking insight into the future" (Sharon Blackie (2016) in "If Women Rose Rooted" on page 27).

And when I read this again, I see an opportunity of learning the local stories, meeting the local people, exploring their galleries, their wharves, their beaches and even their coffee shops. The first day of exploration around a new town could be seen as a ritual of practice, a way of deepening our connection to the place on which we stand, despite our brief visit.

Today, as I walked the bay, I asked myself "I wonder who inhabited this land before colonisation?"

On my return to the apartment, Google helped:

"The Awabakal and Worimi peoples are acknowledged by Council as the traditional custodians of the land and waters of Newcastle" (​​)

So I do another google search and find some more information:

This article begins with:

"(Aboriginal) traditions embody a unique and profound view of reality that may even now be developed by Aboriginal scholars to enrich the mainstream of human thought. The skills are precisely what the nation needs to appreciate and to conserve a unique environment in real danger. - Charles Rowley


Rowley wrote this quote in 1970, and, certainly in the world of theatre, it is only now in the last ten years or so being strongly adhered to, with indigenous artists often leading the theatrical world with transformative stories that change what Rowley calls the "mainstream of human thought". About time.

In a similar way, Blackie is, in her book, awakening the rituals of the Celtic tradition and as I read it, I become more interested in not only how these rituals can relate to me here in Newcastle, but also how the stories of the Awabakal and Worimi peoples can enrich my own ways of understanding as we step, one step at a time, into our future.

The phrase "with awareness comes change" pops into my head, an expression from my therapeutic training, and I'm thinking that if I become more aware of my own celtic stories, I can then become even more curious and enlivened by the stories of this land that we now inhabit.

So the rituals of place have begun to grow on our tour...walking, running, sitting, talking, breathing, meditating and allowing the day to unfold. As it should.

We head to the theatre in a few hours, where the cast will, together, engage in rituals of gratitude, intention, yoga nidra, aerobic workout, lines run and a cup of tea. After the show we will again engage with rituals of connectedness and creative conversations with our audience and later among ourselves before we head for bed.

Can't wait to meet our audience.​