Coming back to Eora life

Campfire scene from the film Wellama: A Reimagining of Welcome to Country.

On the big screen outside Barangaroo Park’s Cutaway events venue, an amazing film now reveals the daily activities and culture of the Eora people who lived on our shoreline long before the First Fleet of British settlers arrived here in 1788.

Wellama shows late 18th century female elder Barangaroo guiding an Eora girl in the skills and culture of fishing from a bark canoe (nawi) and collaborating with other folk to cook a seafood dinner around their campfire on the shoreline.

Showing in a continuous 10 minute loop from 8am to 8pm daily until 30 May 2020, the film Wellama (meaning ‘to come back’) was commissioned by the NSW government from Walbanga and Wadi Wadi artist Alison Page and director Nik Lachajczak (Zakpage Productions) with producer Jade Christian (Barangaroo Delivery Authority). It is a profoundly memorable ‘reimaging’ of conventional ‘Welcome to Country’ presentations.

Wellama filmmakers Alison Page and Nik Lachajczak at Barangaroo.

Various characters are shown spearing fish in the rocky shallows, painting their bodies for ceremonies, and swimming in the harbour. The production is accompanied by an impressive soundscape and the actors are costumed in both traditional and contemporary clothing to reconcile both the realistic watercolours of Eora natives that were produced by First Fleet painters, and today’s generally accepted customs of dressing ‘decently’).

Alison Page was a founding member of the NSW Government’s Merrima group of Australia’s first qualified architects and designers (set up in the 1990s) and now works on various creative projects to support awareness and evolution of Australia’s Aboriginal heritage.