In a creative and inspiring approach to the International Year of Indigenous Languages, prominent public artist Allan Giddy will use the natural flow of water to convey the voices of First Nations children.

5 July 2019

This unique audio installation called ‘Flow’, uses a soundscape of children’s words in local Indigenous language and releases the sounds into bodies of water. 

According to Allan the work is essentially invisible to a passer-by, but can be heard via a stick held with one end in the water, the other against the ear. 

‘The words that flow from children in Australia and around the world will, metaphorically, eventually meet and mix with each other, and with words from other Indigenous cultures around Australia and overseas, in the interconnected oceans of our globe,’ Allan said.

‘This intermingling of Indigenous words will symbolise both the strength and support that Indigenous cultures draw from establishing relationships with each other globally, and the interdependent nature of all humanity.’
The project was conceived during an artist’s residency in New Zealand capturing children speaking te reo Māori. On his return to Australia Allan continued to develop the project and trialled the system in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden.

The trial was named ‘Cookaroo Flow’, as the Botanic Garden is in an area called Cookaroo by its traditional custodians, the Gadigal. 

Allan created soundscapes for ‘Cookaroo Flow’ from the voices of Indigenous students from Sydney’s South West and the Northern Territory, who took part in ‘Poetry in First Languages’ workshops, presented by Red Room Poetry.* 

In Australia, the Sydney-based artist, originally from Aotearoa NZ, has been awarded grants by the Australia Council for the Arts and Create NSW to take ‘Flow’ to four more communities, working with Red Room again on two of these.

First Nations teachers, writers, storytellers and poets will work with local children to create audio in their own First Languages.

Allan plans to take ‘Flow’ to each state and territory, then showcase them all in Canberra at the end of the year. 

He would also like to take the project to other countries such as Canada, the United States and Pacific nations, and would eventually like to present a ‘Pacific Flow’ to an international audience.

*Red Room Poetry is ‘Australia’s leading organisation for the creation and commissioning of new poetry by established and emerging poets.’

Photo by Tad Souden.

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