by Wendy Ireland (2003)
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Biraban (original spelling and now known as Birabaan) is the Awabakal name for Wedge-Tailed Eagle. "The Biraban eagle (Aquila audax) is a high order totem, and was the overall totem for the Awabakal people." Quoted from the Awabakal dictionary.
This work was originally titled Biame but was subsequently re-named by Awabakul elder, Aunt Phylis Darcy, "Biraban".
The work was written for the Chamber Choir of Newcastle Grammar School after a visit to the site of the painting at Millbrodale in the Hunter Valley. The painting depicts the regional Aboriginal spiritual guardian (Biame), ascending into the sky. Following this visit, other Aboriginal paintings depicting the creation were viewed. The English text of Biraban was then written as a description of these artistic representations.
The three regional tribes referred to in the work are the Wonnarua 'the people of the hills and plains' of the Hunter Valley (Muswellbrook), Worimi (Port Stevens) and Awabakal (Newcastle) tribes. "The Eagle Hawk tribes suffered terribly in the wake of British settlement. Disease, violence and dispossession were all part of the process of a physical and mental assault that impacted in a massive scale on these people." Quoted from "Dreaming Stories" Cultural Heritage. Aboriginalhunter.com 2004
The work is written for A Capella SSATB Choir. Creating the idea of the gathering clans, it is intended that performers will progressively walk in while singing. As the tribes gather the elders (soloists) tell of the story of the creation, followed by a section in Awabakul language depicting local bush sounds. The work closes with spoken Awabakul text as the tribes respond to their disposession.
I would also like to acknowledge the help and guidance provided by Daryn McKenny and the staff at the Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association.
Duration: 4 min.
Text based on the language of the Wonnarua, Worimi and Awabakal Aboriginal tribes.
- Inspired by: Indigenous Australian Culture
Performances of this work
2003: City of Sydney Eisteddfod, Town Hall, Sydney
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