In April 2015, Desert Pea Media was invited to deliver a two-week community engagement/song writing project with the community of Maningrida, NT – a small and very remote community in Central Western Arnhem Land.

The community of Maningrida is one of the most multilingual places on earth – with 14 different language groups spoken daily. Arnhem Land is one of the last remaining cultural strongholds for Indigenous culture, the word ‘Maningrida’ literally means ‘the place where the dreaming changed shape’.

This project came about when local elders identified a need for unity in the community, for bringing the clan groups together for celebration. To re-engage and educate young people around cultural identity, and build capacity for social development and dialogue.

This project managed to engage a group of very senior and culturally significant ‘song men’ – these men hold the keys to the ancient creation stories that have been kept alive across the ages. Five distinctive ‘bungul’ songs (ancient ceremonial songs) from different countries surrounding Maningrida are featured, as a gesture towards celebrating multiculturalism and story.

Young people from the local school worked with DPM staff to write a verse that reflected the sentiment of the elders and community. This is part of an ongoing mentoring relationship through DPM , Maningrida School and The Wiwa Project.

The outcome is a remarkable piece of contemporary and historical significance that articulates all languages. Deemed by the elders as an opportunity to support healing and promote strength in diversity for the youth of the community, this project has far exceeded the expectations of its original vision.

‘Homeland Calling’ also features some of Australia’s best session musicians – Declan Kelly (Declan Kelly & The Rising Sun) on drums and Matt Smith (The Strides, Thirsty Merc) on guitar.

NB: The first verse was written by local songwriter and cultural leader Victor Rostron – naming ALL the major language groups in the Maningrida community.

Running time / 5:28
Directed by / Toby Finlayson