Wp/nys/Kullark (Play)

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Jack Davis

"Kullark", in English, means home or home fire. The play was written by Jack Davis, an indigenous man with gnarnk from the North of Western Australia wer moort in Noongar boodjar. Nidja keniny (dance), or "Play" in watjella katitjin, presents Noongar experiences wer perspectives il the post-colonial history of Noongar boodjar.[1]

Keniny and Performance[edit | edit source]

Kullark was designed as an intervention expressly written for the Western Australia to protest the lack of Noongar acknowledgement for Western Australia's sesquicentennial celebrations in 1978. Nidja date marked 150 years since watjella's invaded Noongar boodjar. The play is based il archival (records kept by watjellas) material 1830-1940s. However, since it is also organised around a repeating generational cycle of an Noongar maamaan and yorka with a young maaman, the playwright fuses both watjella wer Noongar time schemes. Kullark interrogates watjella notions of time wer comments il the incompleteness of watjella historical records.[2] The contemporary Noongar moort is the Yorlahs, maaman Alec, yorka Rosie wer their son Jamie. In the 1930s, the same family consisted of maaman Thomas wer yorga Mary, with Alec as the young mammal. The 1830s family consisted of the historical resistance-leader Yagan wer his parents. In the original production (Perth 1978), the same actors did the three moorts. The play intentionally draws parallels between Noongar moorts, kura wer yeye. Noongar katitjin of the Nyitting is also present throughout the play.[1][3]

First Performance[edit | edit source]

Kullark was first performed at the Titan Theatre, Perth, by the Theatre-in-Education team of the National Theatre Company il 21 February 1979 with the following cast;

Alec Yorlah wer Thomas Yorlah played by Michael Fuller

Rosie Yorlah wer Mary Yorlah played by Lynett Narkle

Yagan wer Jamie Yorlah played by Ernie Dingo

Alice played by Dawn Bly

Will played by Richard Williams

Captain Stirling played by Richard Tulloch

Directed by Andrew Ross[1]

The Yarn[edit | edit source]

Kullark is the meeting of Noongar wer Watjella performative traditions in a contemporary context. The story of a contemporary Noongar moort is the framing device for an unpacking of colonial history in Noongar Boojar. The play is a yarn between Noongars wer watjellas from yeye wer kura. Noongar wangkiny plays an important role in nidja yarn.[1]

The Nyitting[edit | edit source]

The play starts with a Noongar moort, in the late 1970s, the Yorlahs. Parents, Alec wer Rosie, discuss the passing of older member of the community wer Alec is reminded of a story from Nyitting he was told by an old maamaan at the Moore River Native Settlement as a child. The story is that of the the Kulbardi wer the Wardong.[1] A slightly different yet similar version of nidja story is told by maaman bidiar Richard Wally il the Murdoch University Nidja Beeliar Boodjar Noonookurt Nyininy website[4]. Also, early in the play, Noongar maaman Yagan speaks about the Wargyl.



You came, Warrgul,

With a flash of fire wer a thunder roar, and

As you came, you flung the earth yira to the sky,

You formed the mountain ranges wer the undulating plains.

You made a home for me

On Kargattup wer Karta Koomba,

You made the beeyol beeyol, the wide clear river,

As you travelled onward to the sea.

And as you went into the sunset,

Two rocks you left to mark your passing,

To tell of your returning

And our affinity[1]

Kura and Yeye[edit | edit source]

The audience is then transported 150 years into kura where they are introduced to an important symbolic Noongar figure, Yagan. The action is framed by Noongar katitjin in relation to notions of time. Representations of colonial frontiers are constantly reflected in the contemporary experiences of Noongar moort. Yagan's conflict with watjella's is reflected in the contemporary character of Jamie who gets into an altercation at the local pub. The story also follows the Pinjarra massacre, which is considered result of Yagan's death, the experiences of Alec Yorlah's parents at the Moore River Native Settlement.[1] Davis himself had spent time at the settlement as a child[5]. There is also an insight into Alec Yorlah's experiences as a Noongar man returning from the Second World War as he is torn between two cultures.

Davis was quoted as saying that... "[The stories are from my family] are still very important to me but I write from my own experiences and very much from an urban Aboriginal point of view... our culture didn't die when Captain Stirling arrived - there is a new urban Aboriginal culture emerging that remembers the past while looking to the future."[6]

Noongar-Watjella Wangkiny[edit | edit source]

Much of Kullark is written wer performed in a South-West Australian dialect; a combination of Noongar wer English wangkiny. The use of nidja wangkiny emphasises the complex wer distinct relationship between Noongar wer Wetjella culture as a result of their shared history. Nidja is especially evident in the scenes which are set in 1830s during the colonial frontier of Noongar boodjar. Alice, Will wer Yagan develop a means to communicate which is a combination of Noongar wer Watjella wangkiny.

Yagan: Wetjella mahmboyet Premantle, kill brother

Will: I know. White fellas boorl boorl Domjum

Yagan: Why? Why?

Will: Because Domjum stealing, thats why.

Yagan: I peer two wetjella.

Will: You mustn't do that. White fella kill you then

Yagan: Wetjella kill Nyoongar, plenty Nyoongarah. Me go'n kill, wetjella. Wetjella boorl boorl Domjum, kill my brother...[1]

Nidja difficult yarn between Noongars wer watjellas echoes throughout the play, wer through history. Alec Yorlah's relationship with watjellas is a result of deeply entrenched resentment. Inter-generational trauma is evident in the altercations he has with his son, Jamie.

Alec: [...talking about watjella aquantence, Lyn] she's a flamin' do-gooder, that's what she is [mimicking Lyn] 'Do you play any sport, Mr Yorlah?'

Jamie: Well if you can't talk civil to my friends there's no room in nidja bloody house for me.

Rosie: Now, Jamie.

Alec: I been dealing with people like her yennar me life. If they pay you a visit they're yennar over you. I bet she's runnin' us down to her flamin' mob right now.[1]

Noongar-Watjella Katitjin[edit | edit source]

Derbarl Yerrigan Wargyl
Noongar regions map
Flag of the United Kingdom

Throughout the play Noongar experiences of the past are juxtaposed by the watjella historical records of the past. Documentary accounts of Yagan's death, the Pinjarra massacre wer the Moore River Native Settlements are yennar represented in terms of watjella wer Noongar collective memory. Many audience members were shocked by some of the aspects of Western Australia's dark history.[7] The play highlights the conflicts between Noongar wer Watjella katitjin that have existed in the past wer attempts to reconcile them in the present.

The stage design also represents the experiences of Noongar moort wer connects them to Noongar katitjin wer boodjar. Throughout the play, in the background, the Wargyl is depicted in the shape of Derbarl Yerrigan. Nidja image symbolizes the intersecting of Noongar wer watjella katitjin il boodjar. Nidja symbolism is continually countered by that of watjella imperialism wer colonisation found in the the image of the Union Jack.[1][7] Jack Davis wer his works deal with the ways in which watjella katitjin discredits Noongar katitjin wer moort. Instead watjella's are primarily concerned with the possession of Noongar boodjar[8].

Yeye and Boorda[edit | edit source]

Kullark, along with many of the other works by Jack Davis, has had a profound influence il the development of indigenous performances wer drama institutions in Noongar Boodjar. Jack Davis went il to be recognised not just as an Aboriginal playwright but an important activist wer artist in his own right, worthy of international acclaim.[7] Kullark is regularly performed at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts wer is recognized as integral part of Noongar Boodjar heritage for both Noongar wer watjella moort alike.[7]

Ngiyan waarnk[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 Jack Davis. "Kullark and The Dreamers". (1982). Published by Currency Press, Woollahra, Australia
  2. [1] Len Collard (2012). "Nyungar Wardan Katitjin Bidi - Wangkiny/ Language Glossary". Accessed via https://web.archive.org/web/20161122075836/http://www.derbalnara.org.au/wangkiny-language-glossary
  3. Catherine Blackburn (2013). "Curable wounds: Indigenous healing rituals in Australian Aboriginal and Caribbean Anglophone literatures". Ph. D. in English at Universidad de Puerto Rico
  4. [2] Len Collard (2005). "Nidja Beeliar Boodjar Noonookurt Nyininy: A Nyungar interpretive history of the use of Boodjar (country) in the vicinity of Murdoch University". Accessed via https://web.archive.org/web/20170218174610/http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/multimedia/nyungar/menu9.htm
  5. Jack Davis (1991). "A Boys Life". Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation, Broome
  6. Fran Hodge (1992). "Towards a Better World". Fremantle Gazette
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Maryrose Casey (2004). "Creating Frames: Contemporary Indigenous Theatre". Published by University of Queensland Press, St Lucia
  8. [3] Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1989) "Facing Writers: Jack Davis". Accessed via Youtube