Yuin woman Sharon Mason founded the Djaadjawan Dancers after attending an Aboriginal women’s camp in Narooma NSW, sponsored by Katungal Aboriginal Medical Service and Wagonga Local Aboriginal Land Council. The aim of the camp was to have local Aboriginal women and children teach and share their traditional knowledge.
Sharon helped run a workshop on traditional dance. There was great interest in the workshop, which gave Sharon the idea that there is a need for a women’s dance group to share culture and traditions to the wider community. After speaking to women in the community to gauge if they were interested in practicing traditional dance, Sharon established the Djaadjawan Dancers in late 2013, involving Yuin women and children from ages six to sixty.
Sharon runs group practice sessions on a regular basis with a gathering of strong Aboriginal women, children and elders who are enthusiastically committed to their traditional dancing and preserving cultural practices.
The dancers hunt and gather natural resources from the land to hand make their traditional dance outfits, accessories and craft. The parents of the children involved in the dance group have commented on how their children’s behaviours have changed for the better, they are attending school more often, participating in school activities, they show more respect to their parents and show a strong interest in participating in their traditional culture.
On a regular basis, the Djaadjawan Dancers gather natural resources from within the local area, Walbanja country in Narooma NSW.
They collect nuts, seeds and bark from the bush, body paint from ancient ochre pitts and shells from prestige beaches.
The bird feathers are from fresh road kill.
This is a way to practice their culture and stay connected to the environment and Mingagia – Mother Earth.
All the dancers hand make their own dance outfits using the collection of resources they have gathered.
Stringybark from the Stringybark trees is twined to make string or rope, with feathers twined in, and decorated with shells and nuts.
Mariya outfits are made of sea grass and mariya feathers (emu).
The yellow strapless dresses were made by Elizabeth lulan ( Yuin dancer) and are worn with necklaces made of shell and nuts, along with conk anklets (cockles).
The Gadoo wear (salt water outfit) is made out of old fishing net decorated with the resources gathered.
The markings that the Djaadjawan Dancers paint on their faces and bodies represent themselves and their country. Markings are different for each performance.
Here on the south coast of NSW in Yuin country, Aboriginal people speak the Dhurga (Thoorga) language. The songs the Djaadjawan Dancers sing live at performances are in language.
The Djaadjawan Dancers practice the traditional language so they can teach the children and hand it on to the next generation.
Djaadjawan Dancers have strong connection to Bithigaal country in the Eora nation (Laperouse, Sydney), right down to Gunai country (Victoria) and up to Bidwel clan, Monaroo, in the snowy mountains.
They have gatherings regularly to keep kinship strong within the group. This is special time with elders, male and female. Stories are shared and new visions are discussed. New songs and dances are created during these gatherings, and confirmation is received from the elders and Biame (the creator).
Confirmation from the creator is cloud formations in the sky.
Aboriginal people are strongly connected to all the elements of the entire universe, this is how they stay tuned for confirmation.