Carriers of the Story

It has been four years since our last roll down the west coast and we were excited to reconnect with some of our kinfolk Oakland, California. We were meant to park our bus in the Bekaert’s driveway but found that the already tight squeeze was made impossible by surrounding parked cars. Nic had a “Plan B” for us to park with a friend down the street who owned an auto shop. We were super grateful for the hospitality but the initial let down of not being next door to our friends, on top of trying to get remember our city street smarts, left us a bit unhinged. All that to be said, after the first day, we found our bearings and started to engage with the colorful world around us.

We began our week by making scones and tea for our host, Tane and his wife, Keo as a thank you for allowing to park in their lot. Over the course of the next few days, we visited with them several times, sharing story and encouraging one another.

Tane, shared a bit about his hard road growing up in Oakland. He said his life was consumed with anger, with self and he had very little hope. Then, he had a moment where time stood still and everything came into focus. He was riding in his car and flipped on the radio to a station where he heard a sermon about God’s forgiveness through Yeshua. Forgiveness was not a word that was familiar or comfortable for him. However, in that moment, it all began to sink deep into his being and he knew he needed this forgiveness and he knew he needed to offer this forgiveness. And so he began to move towards this truth, one step at a time. He talked about how this forgiveness transformed his mind, strengthened his marriage and family and gave him a vision for the future. He was a top end mechanic, working at a dealership and had always wanted to start his own business. So, he and his wife began to pray and things started lining up. In May, they bought the mechanic shop on the corner of Foothills and 27th. They call it Community Auto Center, a name that symbolizes everything Tane and Keo are about; community.

We also had inspiring conversations with Keo. Born in Cambodia, fleeing as a child during the war, Keo shared the journey of faith that led her towards healing and reconciliation. A part of that journey was a trip back to Cambodia with a handful of other Cambodian women. The trip offered the ladies an opportunity to reconnect with culture, to heal past wounds, to encourage and be encouraged by their families and fellow Cambodians in the reconciliation process. This process requires deep lament and also a movement towards Thanksgiving. In his book, Out of the Depths, Anderson suggests that “laments are really expressions of praise, offered in a minor key in the confidence that Yhwh is faithful and in anticipation of a new lease on life.”

Though out the week we had non-stop visits from many of Tane and Keo’s friends and neighbors. We found that in many of their stories, as refugees, that they are still actively living out lament, stuck in a posture of deep sadness and for some, anger. Having been to Cambodia and experiencing the subtle transition from lament to thanksgiving amongst the locals that we met, we were able to participate in active listening, allowing the speaker to really confess the horrors, pain, and sense of betrayal they still feel bound by in their lives.

Yet, when they learned of our visit to their homeland, light-filled their eyes and they wanted to hear a new story. It was awesome to be able to encourage them by telling them stories of our friends, their fellow countrymen, who have walked through the same horrors of war and who continue to live in a hostile world but who have hope. We shared stories of those who, through the power of forgiveness have begun to mend relationships with those who once were their oppressors. We shared stories of those who live out this hope by loving God and loving their neighbors. Thought it all, some of them were inspired to begin to move towards healing, towards forgiveness, Thanksgiving, and hope.

We travel full time, all over the world, we sit with people and listen to their stories. If nothing else, we are finding that the further we go the more these stories interweave. There is a tie that binds us all in love and it is an honor to carry these stories for such a time as this. It is an honor to be welcomed in as the stranger and find such rich treasures waiting for us.

If you’d like to learn more about Cambodia’s recent history with genocide and war we highly recommend the Netflix movie, They Killed My Father.

During our visit to Cambodia, we spent much time with Craig Greenfield and the Alongsiders, learning and listening. We visited the Killing Fields and asked anyone who was willing to share their story.  We were struck by our new Cambodian friend’s tenderheartedness, sober-mindedness, and their joy. We were encouraged by their commitment to making their world a better place by serving one another, caring for the hungry, the wounded, the warring, and the dying. While there we learned a sacred song, one that resonated so deeply in our souls that we have carried it with us and share it with those longing for healing and restoration in our world. It is a song that was actually written by a Mennonite named Tom Wuest, who visited the Alongsiders prior to us and was so inspired that he wrote a whole album of sacred songs. This was one of them. It is called May Your Kingdom Come and it is a prayer based off of Yeshua’s prayer;

9 …Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Matt 6.9-13)

You can download Tom’s song at https://tomwuest.bandcamp.com/track/may-your-kingdom-come

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Audiofeed Music Festival

Six years ago, the last ever Cornerstone festival took place. This underground faith festival was a big family reunion for many of us wayfaring travelers. A place where we were able to come together, create and commune, even if just for a moment.

In 2012, when it was announced that the 29-year-old festival was going to come to an end, many of us mourned. Some responded with anger, some sadness but there was a remnant of kinfolk who got together, plotted and prayed and the next year gathered together for what has come to be known as Audiofeed Music Festival. Now, this little festival does not claim to have replaced Cornerstone but it does claim to have carried on the communal spirit, with bands and fans all mingling, camping, creating and fellowshipping with one another.

It was raining when we arrived at our first ever Audiofeed in Urbana Illinois, on Thursday evening. Even so, there was excitement in the air as we anticipated seeing so many kinfolk. We had already picked up our friends, Renee and Di, who had flown from Australia into O’hare that day. We knew a handful of members and former alumni from JPUSA were going to be there as well as a contingency of kinfolk from our Louisiana community. Then there were all of the bands we’d played with out on the road. And finally, we were excited to see some of our bus rider alumni, including Chaz, Lindy, and Colleen. We were excited for all of them to join us for our performance slot Sunday morning as our “OnCall Orchestra.” (that’s the name we’ve given to all of our kinfolk around the globe who have played music with us).

We had put the word out that we were going to be hosting morning Chai tea at our bus all weekend long and were delighted to find many friends new and old stop by for tea and conversations.

On Friday afternoon, a handful of us led a time of sacred space, which offered us a much-needed upward soaking after months of hard travel.

We spent quite a bit of time in the complementary kitchen set up and run by the infamous “Mama Linda.” We learned about her history, inviting bands to come to her property for a hearty meal as they toured through her little town in Illinois and how she set up this hospitality space at the festival to continue to offer that blessing to all of us road warriors. It was a comfortable and open space, holding none of the insecure or prideful vibes that are often times found in a “green room” experience. There was a place for folks to unwind and play games and even a little area set up with toys for all of the children.

During a meal, we sat down with one of the core organizer, Jim Eisenmenger and had a conversation about the story of Audiofeed and the place he hopes it holds in the greater story. There was a humility and gentleness when he spoke and let us know a bit of history about this little “all volunteer” run, art and music festival. He made it clear that Audiofeed is not trying to become the next big thing but rather hopes to keep its communal focus offering a safe space for exploration, questioning, doubts, fears, hopes, joys. He expressed that ultimately, “we are people who want to support each other and experience great music and art with others who feel the same way.” And, that is exactly what we sensed as our weekend unfolded.

We spent the rest of Saturday catching up with many dear friends. We especially loved discovering one of Craig’s old Ballydowse band mates, Darren Davick’s band, The October Bird of Death. The band, Comrades, was another fun discovery! Of course, we loved hearing our mates, Nate Allen and Insomniac Folklore, who both came out with new albums. We were blessed to give our friend T and Veronica a big squeeze after their White Collar Sideshow. And besides sitting in with us, Brother ReD Squirrel offered us an opportunity to hear some of our old favorite “Seeds” songs and John Ruben took us back to our Cornerstone days and then launched us forward by sharing how life has unfolded for him over the past five-year through some of his new songs.

 

On Sunday afternoon, on the Arkansas stage, we found our way, with our On-call Orchestra, all nine of them, and played a rollicking thirty minute set of music. It was so special to hear our songs played with such gusto and to hear each member listening and working together best they could to create a unified sound.  It was one of the most refreshing and joyful performances we’ve had in a long time and gave us a thirst for more opportunities to include and join together with large ensembles.

After our afternoon performance we noticed that people were buzzing about and preparing video gamed themed costumes for the evening festivities. Banjo and his crew ended up making a combined costume, each playing a part in the game “Pong.”

That evening we connected with our mate, Tobin and found that his band, Flatfoot 56 held a sort of “cool” fatherly presence at the festival as they brought everyone into the fold during their Sunday night performance. As the crowd gathered in anticipation, classic video game music was playing over the PA. The show started with a fun little Mario skit featuring Tessa and Nate Allen. The crowd began to close in towards the front of the room and when the first guitar chords were strummed the crowd erupted in exuberance movement that continued throughout the night. As the band played, there were dance lines, circle pits, crowd surfing, and stage diving.

Now, I’m more of a granola girl but I married a punk rocker and I’ve always wanted to stage dive. I had been contemplating it all night but felt like I was too old. But, then I saw my friend Tessa do it and I thought, that’s it, I’m doing it! Tobin was singing a punk version of “I’ll Fly Away” and as I approached the edge of the stage, I looked out over the crowd I bowed and offered a sort of prayer sign with my hands begging them to not drop me. Those looking at me, held their arms out strong and wide and yelled JUMP! And, I did! It was so freaking fun! Really it was the highlight of the festival for me; to be in a place of total trust, surrender and to just jump, to be caught and held high, then lowered ever so gently. For me, it was a beautiful picture of community and I will never forget it!

Look, if you ever find yourself longing for a little family reunion, keep Audiofeed on your radar. It is not just a music and arts festival. It’s exactly what Jim said, “it’s community.”

 

 

 

 

 

Earthships, Mud Baths and The Taos Pueblo

We have been to New Mexico every year for the past six years. We normally stop in to see some of our favorite kinfolk in ABQ. We love New Mexico and as residents, they obviously love New Mexico too. Inevitably our conversation drifts towards other great places in New Mexico to visit and Taos always rises to the top of their list. So, this time around, we decided to stop in Taos to see what all of the hoopla was all about. We are glad we did! What a fantastic place!

We only had two days up our sleeve so we decided to book an RV spot at the Taos Monte Bello RV Park, which sits about fifteen minutes northwest of the city center. The park was clean, gated and provided a beautiful backdrop for our big ol’ rig, “Celu.” We paid with cash and used our Good Sam discount, paying a total of $76 for the two nights.

We pulled in to our site around 2 pm and spent a few hours settling in, putting together a picnic. At 5 pm we drove 40 minutes west, popping in for a quick view of the Rio Grande Gorge, then on to Ojo Caliente’ Spa and Resort to enjoy a sunset soak.  We arrived at Ojo Caliente’ at 6 pm. The sunset soak runs from 6-10pm and is $17.50 per person. It includes 7 different mineral soaking pools, a mud bath that stays open for the first half hour, as well as, a sauna and eucalyptus steam room. The price also includes a towel, the use of a locker, fancy essential oil soaps, and other amenities in the locker rooms.

The facility was clean, beautiful, quiet, and the calm incense of sage wafted through the grounds. We soaked, laid in hammocks, read books and soaked some more. Then about 8 pm we dried off and went out to the picnic area to refresh with veggies, hummus, cheese and crackers and a fruit bowl, then we went back in for a final soak, sauna, and steam. We made it back to the bus about 11 pm and slept hard through the night.

The next morning we enjoyed a lazy start, eating breakfast on the bus before heading into town to do a little thrifting.  We found a few great thrift stores but our favorite was Pieces. The items were higher end and the prices reflected that. So, we went straight for the sale tags and found a few reasonably priced treasures, including a beautiful tunic from India and an NM Turquoise ring.

After our treasure hunting thrill, we drove through the touristy downtown and snapped a few pictures, then made our way to The Coffee Spot to refuel. I ordered their house made Chai with Almond Milk and was pleased with the blend of spice and flavor.

Craig had looked up things to do in Taos and discovered the Earthship Village. An Earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and upcycled materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by the architect Michael Reynolds in the 1970’s. Taos, NM has a large village and a building school where you can go to learn the craft. Craig, being the learner and builder that he is, was very interested in hearing the inside story of this place.  We inquired about a tour but found that the cost was prohibitive for us wanderers. We decided to trek over anyways, just to have a look and despite the signs that read “no trespassing,” we ended up doing a drive through the neighborhood. Our roadside view allowed us to see just the tops of the homes but we were fascinated and declared that next time around we’d seek out a local to show us the ropes.

Another finding of Craigs was the Taos Pueblo, which is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. This special place is the only UNESCO Site in the United States and the Taos Pueblo has been one of the only continuously inhabited neighborhoods since time immemorial. We found it a remarkable example of preserved traditional architecture from the pre-Hispanic period of the Americas and learned it is unique to this region. We also learned that because of the living culture of its community, it has successfully retained most of its traditional forms up to the present day. And so, we trod lightly through their neighborhood, respecting their desire for tourist to withhold from taking photos. In fact, the only photo I took was a view from the parking lot. However, there are several really good shots on the UNESCO Site.

After a quick bite to eat we made our way a few miles down the road to the Taos Mesa Brewery to see our friend, Nahko, and Medicine for the People, perform at the breweries amphitheater. The facility and grounds were artsy, industrial and funky with mountains off in the distance and the staff was laid back, which made for a very relaxed evening. While at the concert, we met a few locals around the bonfire and had an opportunity to hear stories about what life was like in Taos. We also met folks from the Earthship school and were able to pick their brains about what they were learning, which rounded out our curiosity and made some of the things we had seen in our driving tour make more sense.

The next morning, we sat and had a coffee, enjoying our view one last time and then drove off into the distance towards Colorado Springs.

Surfers, Roots and Fire

Traveling through Australia with just back packs and instruments often left us vulnerable to not knowing where exactly we’d lay our heads every night. However, the generosity of our hosts continued to give us a peace of mind. It’s funny how connection happens. We had a few conversations with Jayne before our visit and during one of them we mentioned that we would be so grateful for a host, a hub, a place to call home while we were in town. Jayne put us on to Sparky and she welcomed us with open arms.

When we arrived, Sparky was just leaving for work. Jayne had mentioned that Sparky was a fire performer but were tickled with she opened the door and she welcomed us in her fire-red costume. She was a sheer delight! She gave us the low down on her place, showed us to our rooms and wished us a great visit.

Between our outings with Jayne we enjoyed learning more about Sparky and her love for her dog, traveling, community, faith and her art form. Sharing her space with us was natural and informal and just what we needed on our last leg down under. Thanks Sparky!

Photo credit F13 Media

Bordertown Sheep Farm

With a head count of 75 million sheep, the second largest sheep population in the world, and traditional sheep shearing bush songs like Click Go the Sheers, Australia is definitely known for its sheep farms!

I’m a sucker for those timid but wild beasts and am always telling my husband to pull off the road so I can get a photo! I’ve even written about them in one of our songs, where I dream about one day owning a sheep farm. So, a few years ago, when we meet a sheep farmer named Trevor Thomas and his family at the Bendigo Blues and Roots festival, we made sure to stay in contact in hopes of one day visiting their sheep farm in Bordertown, South Australia. Their oldest daughter, Sarah and I exchanged Instagrams and eventually we wound our way through Bordertown for a lovely afternoon meal and tour of the farm.

Bordertown, SA sits about 18 klm from the South Australian/Victorian border and is the halfway point when you drive from Adelaide to Melbourne. It’s a small town of about 2500 population and the hub for many of South Australia’s farmers. This part of the country is ripe for agriculture, specifically cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oats, as well as, livestock such as sheep, cattle and pigs. The terrain is flat, with thinly lined trees here and there, similar to the landscape of Nebraska in the USA. At night, you can see the stars all the way down to the earth’s horizon and on clear day you can see a good three miles out.

The Thomas farm was established many generations ago and is home to hundreds of sheep and a few large wheat fields. When we arrived, Trevor invited us into the shearing shack where we got a little homeschool lesson on the in’s and out’s of this very manual process of shearing.

Sheep shearing 101: Cutting or shaving the wool off of a sheep is called shearing. Shearing is similar to getting a hair cut. However, shearing requires skill so that the sheep is shorn efficiently and quickly without causing cuts or injury to the sheep or shearer. Most sheep are sheared with electric shears and the fleece is removed in one piece. A professional shearer can shear a sheep in less than 2 minutes and the world record is 37.9 seconds, set in 2016 by Ivan Scott from Ireland.

Sheep are usually sheared once per year, before lambing or in the spring before the onset of warm weather. Sheep with long fleeces are sometimes sheared twice a year. Shearing prior to lambing results in a cleaner environment for the baby lambs. It also keeps the fleeces cleaner.

We were in the shack for approximately thirty minutes and during that time we saw about 20 sheep get their annual hair cut. It was intense but the shearing team, (a father and son) were so calculated and precise that the sheep barely had time to really understand what was happening before it was all over and they were ushered out of the shack in to the greater holding pen. They would then be washed in a special liquid that would help clean and heal any nicks or cuts and finally set out into pasture.

As the sheep were sheared, Trevor explained the process of taking the wool to market and which would eventually bring the wool into the hands of spinners and finally to the yarn shelves across the country.

It was intriguing to be in able to learn about this fantastic tradition of sheep shearing! However, the highlight of our visit was sharing a meal around the farmhouse table prepared by three generations of Thomas ladies! The aromas were delightful as they had been cooking all morning and the spread they made was that of a Christmas feast!

I asked if it was a special occasion and they answered, “no, that this is what they make every day for lunch during shearing season.” The three coarse meal, of roast chicken, lamb and veggies, potatoes, and a salad also including a delicious homemade dessert. It was part of their offering to the sheep shearers for their hard work, which by the way, the shearers only had thirty minutes to eat and get back to the shack. That thirty minutes was so fascinating however, as we were able to ask all sort of questions about daily life on the farm, how they handle the uncertainty of weather patterns, global warming, farming technics, the costs and factors that make up good farming practices.

It’s one thing to learn about these sorts of things from a text-book or a TED Talk and a wholly other thing to actually sit across the table from those you are curious about and unpack ideologies, preconceived notions and ultimately talk about dreams for the future. Thankful for kinfolk like the Thomas family, willing to take in us weary travelers and allow us to engage, even if just for a moment, catching a little glimpse into their every day, extraordinary lives.

The Making of One

From the Archives… Celebrating TEN YEARS!

Jana Holland"Jana Holland was given a rich heritage of song and spirit. Every Saturday afternoon for the first 15 years of her life, she would join her Grandmother at the local nursing home in Muskegon, Michigan, to sing hymns of old. As a teen, she was introduced to the world of performance, and recording by touring with Judy Price, her mother, mentor and gifted vocalist. 

Through these experiences Jana developed a deep desire to connect with others through song and began to write after having her daughter in 1996. In her writings she shares her life journey, offering an emotional, intellectual and spiritual response to deeply moving issues." ~CD Baby

1929856_14065906397_1539_nIn 2007 Mama Holland sat down with her guitar and recorded five heart songs. Run, Empathy, Keeper of Your Dreams, Sweet Little Baby and Windows. 

All of the songs were deeply personal and chronicle her journey out of the pit, foot set upon a new rock and a new song put in her mouth.

The name *One* came after an encounter she had at the zoo in Madison, WI. While there as a chaperon on a school trip, Jana had an interaction with a stranger. A woman and her son had been trailing behind the group all day and finally approached Jana at the end of the afternoon. The woman said that she had a divine message and wanted to know if Jana was keen to hear. She answered, “sure.” The woman told her that she was going to have a baby. Bursting into laughter, Jana responded, that the physical possibility for this prophecy was quite impossible. However, the woman continued on, stating that it wasn’t a physical baby but the birth of something that Jana had longed for, something creative. This resonated with Jana as she had a deep desire to record her heart songs but no idea how to do it. She left the encounter encouraged and excited for what might come regarding her dream. She though the name *One* was appropriate because it would hopefully be the first of many new creative babies.

1929856_14065921397_2544_nA few months later, while sharing her dream to record, a fellow musician and sound engineer named Danny Lueck made a generous offer to help. He had access to all the necessary recording equipment and the expertise to guide her through. And so, the recording began.

Thinking back to the lady who had encouraged Jana, she smiled and from that moment on everything about the process was related to that of having a baby, from the CD art work, to making jokes about Danny being her doctor and the ladies in the office, her nurses. Even the process to produce a final product was laborious. Everything was done by hand from the burning of the disks to creating the hand-made packaging. Her mother and cousin were there by her side and even threw her a little shower to celebrate.

All up they hand crafted one hundred of the EP *One* and the songs were archived on CD Baby and put on to Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music, Etc…

 *One* is now TEN Yrs Old!

CLICK HERE to celebrate with us! Have a listen to Jana’s Experimental Folk / Lyrical / Healing & Easy Listening tunes. Let them wash over you and encourage you!

one

 

The Dusty Feet Mob

You know how it goes for us nomads, we meet kinfolk who find out were heading towards their friends. Then we meet those people who find out our next stop is in the same town as their friends and on and on. And so it was, that we made our way from Melbourne, to Adelaide to the Dusty Feet Mob in Port Augusta.

We were in Melbourne, VIC, Australia with our friends Nick and Anita Wight. We met Nick and Anita in March of 2014 at Surrender Conference, a gathering of all sorts of kinfolk doing amazing things around the globe in their communities, from offering hospitality to refugees, to creating sustainable/recycled goods, advocating for those who are oppressed to living side by side with folks in some of the poorest parts of the world. We were excited to hear about these like-minded kinfolk and wrote Anita (who was one of the directors at the time) and asked if we could share our music or help in any other way and she said yes! And, that was that, we became fast friends and continued to stay in touch, stopping in to see the Wight family at their Footscray home on our way from here to there.

It’s an encouragement to find friends like the Wights because their friendship not only allowing us to anchor when we need a rest or re-supply but their friendship fuels our hearts with love.

img_2531One night we were sharing a meal and talking about our upcoming trek across South Australia and up to Alice Springs, when their friend Ian Dempster called. Ian was from Adelaide and happened to in Melbourne, driving by their home on his way to a meeting. He didn’t have time to stop over but thought of them as he passed and decided to give them a quick call for a chat. While on the phone the Wights told Ian about us and our desire to come alongside and encourage others and he said, “send them my way.”

We were blessed to meet up with Ian at the Central Market for a coffee and hear about his work with the UAICC (Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress). He shared about his passion to collaborate with and encourage his Aboriginal counterparts. Although our time with Ian was brief we shared our desire to meet and hear more of the Aboriginal story as we made our way north and he connected us with his dear friends 3 1/2 hours north in Port Augusta.

img_2596As we neared into the industrial town of  Port Augusta we experienced the vast rose-colored salt lakes, broken mesas and massive rock formations that lifted out of the ground commanding our attention and we were reminded of one of our favorite states in the US, New Mexico. Our hosts, The Wallace family, lived on a pink salt lake around the corner from the railroad and welcomed us to their Port Augusta home. They invited us to settle in, share a meal and do a load of laundry. We found them easy to connect with, specially after they whipped out the Settlers of Catan board. Then it was game on. As a bonus, Anna shared her gift of sewing with us and mended up some of our broken backpacks.

The next day, we joined the Congress Port Augusta – Uniting Church, where we met Jesse Size, Auntie* Maria and the rest of the mob*. The service was informal yet reverent. We all sat in the round, taught each other songs of praise and shared in story. They asked us questions about our travels and we shared the practical stories of how Abba cares for us along the way, making sure our needs are met, just as he cares for the birds of the air. A question was asked about how we deal with conflict and betrayal, an issue close to the Aboriginal heart. We shared the story of the betrayal and reconciliation in our own marriage.  As a legitimate victim, I shared how difficult it was to wait without bitterness or blemish, in faith, for my husband to “own his stuff” and finally how Abba liberated him from his twisted thinking; thinking that kept him bound to a false sense of justice.  As we laid down our pride and trusted, Abba did it all. Faithfully the Great Physician put our marriage back together again. We shared another song or two and said a prayer of blessing over them. It was an honor to be with these saints, to tell our hard story and the story of God’s trustworthy-ness.

Afterwards, there was a lightness in the room as folks were getting ready to move to the next part of the day, a Sunday afternoon picnic. Auntie Maria invited us to join in and explained that it was a picnic for the Dusty Feet Mob, a dance troop that her daughter, Wanita choreographed. She was excited to have us join them and for us to see the children dance.

When we arrived, Maria shared the story of the Dusty Feet Mob and explained that Port Augusta is made up of 36 different Aboriginal groups and the Dusty Feet Mob is inclusive towards them all. She stated their dance troop was created in 2014 to provide a medium for elders to pass on their knowledge to younger generations and as a way to communicate about Aboriginal issues, specifically regarding reconciliation.  The group’s debut performance was at the Peterborough Art Cultural Festival in Port Pirie and since then they have been invited to perform at the NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week and many other state and national events. One of their most riveting performances was alongside famed Aboriginal folk singer, Archie Roach, at the Reconciliation South Australia Event in February 2016

Film Maker Dave Laslett. 

img_2628-1What we learned, and what we shared in Port Augusta was life-giving and inspiring. And, even more was the quiet evening that we spent in Jesse and Chelsea Size’s home, sharing a traditional Aboriginal meal of Kangaroo Tails that Auntie Maria made for us. It was during this meal, as the sun setting in the sky and heat lighting was bolting here and there that Auntie Maria shared her personal story. A story of resilience, perseverance, and faith.

Auntie Maria must have been about my age, maybe a bit older, (meaning she was probably in her early 50’s). So she would have been born during a difficult time in Australian/Aboriginal history. Her people were originally from Maralinga but had to flee thousands of Kilometer into Oak Valley, Cundalee Mission in 1955 after the British Government, along with the Australian Government, dropped an Nuclear bomb on their lands. Some went north, east and west after the bomb to find comfort. Unfortunately, some never recovered and many who have lived through the travesty still feel the effects today with sore eyes or blindness.

Many of Maria’s family were taken to Mt Margaret Mission, Kurrawang Mission or Norseman Mission and placed there under the guardianship board when they were taken from their families. This is now known as the stolen generation. Maria’s mum fled all the way to Perth where she had Maria. However, from what Maria was told her mother died when she was 3 months old. A native welfare worker contacted Maria’s extended family and her oldest sister took her under her wing with other family supporting. Maria was born a half-caste and expressed her deep desire to know her connection to country, to family especially around native titles, etc. Unfortunately, for Maria there is not a lot written about her mum so all she has to go on is what family tells her about who is family and where she fit in.

She spoke fondly of her childhood, growing up in and around Laverton, Mt Margaret and Leonora. She said she was a bit of a cheeky child, later returning to her hometown to see her name still etched into sidewalks and buildings. She said she respects and values her culture and has a deep longing to connect with country but explained that her Brother-in-law, who raised her like his own, had a strong Christian faith and for that she was thankful, for no matter what may come her way, she knows that Jesus is her rock. When all else fails, and she’s seen her share of failings, she falls back on her faith as her firm foundation. Auntie Maria’s story was so inspiring and it was an honor to even have heard a small portion of it.

*Mob is a word used to describe a tribe or family group of Aboriginal people. *Auntie or Uncle are the respectful terms to address an elder woman or man