In the pre-dawn darkness, I sit cross-legged in the red dirt and listen to the women sing and cry. Here in this escarpment overlooking the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia’s Northern Territory, the majestic stringybark trees sway gently in time. The voices of the Aboriginal elders, a melding of sorrow and comfort, send chills across my skin and make my heart race. I tilt my head back and see a shooting star travelling across the sky.
Song is a crucial transmission mode for our hosts, the Yolngu people of north eastern Arnhem Land. It is how knowledge is taught, described and shared. The women carry out this sacred ceremony as it has been done for thousands of years, with wailings of loss, of longing, memories and ancestral belonging.