Waringarri is the first wholly indigenous owned art centre established in the Kimberley region and one of the oldest continuously operating art centres in Australia supporting economic independence for artists and their community. Cultural performances compliment the visitor experience with a rich insight into Miriwoong culture.
Waringarri Dancers regularly perform at festivals and art fairs. Earlier this year Alan Griffiths was invited by Carriageworks to perform his Bali Bali Balga for Sydney audiences as part of The National – New Australia Art, an exciting and ambitious art biennial.
Those fortunate enough to have experienced his performance of the Bali Bali Balga, on a chilly evening on the 31st March, are keenly aware of the theatrical beauty the large cross-thread coloured objects the performers carry while stamping their feet in time to Alan’s powerful singing and the beats of the clapping sticks. This corroboree or dance style is called a Balga and has been performed in the Kimberley for thousands of years although the story and song can be current, existing in today. The dance boards are called balmarra and they represent specific characters in the performance, based on real life events involving the disappearance of Alan’s daughter when camping at Spillway Creek. The traditional incarnation of this Balga comes to the owner in the form of a dream. This is a special gift that is not given to simply any community member. It’s a message from the spirit world. Alan dreamed this particular Balga over a series of years and has been teaching the Balga to his family and sharing the dance with other communities since its inception.
For this performance, an entire set of balmarra were commissioned for The National and were exhibited alongside Griffiths ochre paintings depicting his performances as well as a video installation of Balga performances developed with Rob Lazarus Lane. Alan and 17 performers took the balmarra off the walls of Carriageworks and walked to an outdoor area authentically prepared with sand and bough shed to perform the Bali Bali Balga to Sydney audiences for the very first time.
“Our cultural is as old as this country but this Balga is a new story that came to my dad in a dream and we are keeping it alive for generations to come.” says Chris Griffiths, Alan’s youngest son and lead dancer in the Balga. Chris, now 44 has been performing in the Balga since he was a young man. “It’s about performing together as one. It’s very important for Dad because he knows that everyone who is dancing up there are related to him, his sons and daughters and grand children, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. This is a way for him to hand down his performance. This is a way for us to learn and listen and understand our old people.”