by Pamela Nathan, CASSE Aboriginal Program Director
Shellie Morris and the Borroloola Songwomen have made a CD – Together We Are Strong – a double album sung entirely in Aboriginal languages. Already one of the songs has become a community anthem. Shellie studied the four languages of the Gulf region and then drew on the traditional songs and stories of the region. In 2011 Shellie returned to Borroloola on the Gulf of Carpentaria to record an album to give indigenous musicians the chance to work with traditional links.
What is remarkable is that Shellie was given up for adoption by her indigenous mother and adopted by a non-indigenous family. Twenty years ago Shellie travelled to the Northern Territory to sing gospel music and in the community of Wugularr became overcome with emotion. Shellie said “I didn’t really understand what all these feelings were. I’d never really felt such a connection to a place before”. Later that year a mining worker mistook Shellie for, as it turns out, her sister in Kakadu. When he discovered the mistaken identity he told her she had a sister who “looks like you, walks like you, talks like you..same everything”. What wonderful fate! She rang her sister and she said “We know who you are. Your family has been looking for you since you were born”.
Stories and song in language of country and kin revive and recapture lost cultural and emotional worlds of identity and connection providing new life and a home for lost connections; together we are strong! This CD is on my must list to buy.