The Shimmering Snake Slide

Harriett Johnston

 

That best thing of all

It running chasing black

All blur of a thing

It shimmer on its belly

You never kill him

It’s dangerous and like Rainbow to us

You respect that snake cause

It come to earth from the sky

It bring rain and life

Can’t believe I got photo of him

You all gather round

All you mob come here and cheer

This photo I got like Rainbow

All over the ground

 

Harriett Johnston is a proud young Yanyuwa woman and leading member of the Borroloola Poetry Group, ‘Diwurruwurru’. She loves Vanderlin Island (of which she is a Traditional Owner), fishing, swimming, poetry camp and bossing Mista Phillip (because he worries too much).

Borroloola Poetry Club: Diwurruwurru (Message Stick)

Borroloola is remote town located in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory. It has a population of around 600-700 people in the Dry Season; and approximately 800-1000 people in the Wet Season. The population of Borroloola is 95% Indigenous and is made up of members of the Yanyuwa, Garrawa, Mara and Gudanji peoples.

Diwurruwurru (The Borroloola Poetry Club) is an Indigenous writers’/storytellers’ group that meets at the local school, or at the local Warralungku Arts Centre, under the care of local teacher/poet, Phillip Hall. The club is made up of both adult and school student members and meets every Friday afternoon (and sometimes on camp out bush).

Diwurruwurru has established an annual poetry prize (with children’s, young adult and adult sections) as part of the Borroloola Show. This year’s prize attracted over 70 entries; and was a glorious testament to the club’s dynamism.

Diwurruwurru has also collaborated with The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, since 2012, to establish an annual poetry festival in Tennant Creek; to publish member poems electronically on The Barkly Poetry Wall and in the print publication, Coming to Voice. In 2013 the Club also worked with the NT Writers’ Centre to secure an Australia Council grant to host Lionel Fogarty (an award-winning Indigenous poet) and Amanda King (a digital artist) in a month long residency in Borroloola. This exciting program saw Borroloola school students writing poetry, learning to perform and then recording their efforts onto film. In 2014 twenty members from Diwurruwurru were invited to WordStorm, the NT Writers’ Festival, to launch the Borroloola poetry film onto the national stage – a wonderful celebration of creativity in the Gulf.

Diwurruwurru has secured many other publication opportunities in 2014-2015 as well: we have been selected to appear in the new Donna Ward Inkermann & Blunt publication and in the Red Room Company’s new ‘Poetry Objects’ series.

Diwurruwurru writes group poems under the guidance of Phillip Hall. Our creative process is to meet around a meal where we share a lot of excited ideas/stories. Phillip Hall gathers these together on a white board where the drafting process begins with much discussion, debate and hilarious attempts to pronounce/spell Aboriginal English and Language words. Phillip continues to work on the poem over the following week before bringing it back to the group for approval. This process is sometimes repeated over several weeks.

Under the care of Phillip Gijindarriji Hall, Diwurruwurru is a lively creative place where family and friends meet to explore, experiment and assert Indigenous Culture and Story. The message stick that it generously shares is one of pride, respect and strength.

Phillip Gijindarriji Hall

 

The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) is proud to have hosted the Borroloola Poetry Club at the most recent Writers Workshops in October 2014. They are excellent writers and the ALNF is proud to support and encourage their ongoing activity as writers.

2 replies

  1. Love the beautiful simplicity of this poem and the message of respect.

    Like

  2. Thanks Torie. Harriett is such a strong leader and passionate custodian of country. I am so lucky to have shared my life with these rich Carpentarian people. They have ‘made’ me.

    Like

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