River Rites

Is it a bird, is it a plane? Is it a bunyip, wilder man, yeti, boogie man, nuuttipukki, urati, cerbul, merdules, urtzu or domadores?

A celebration of our cultural connection to country, River Rites is a ‘neo pagan rural rite’. It combines extraordinary disguise making from repurposed materials found on Berri/Barmera farms and natural environs with filmmaking, photography and performance.

In September 2015 River Rites moved through the central streets of Berri to the Berri Field Day and culminated in participatory installation at the River Land Art Gallery.

River Rites celebrated the ‘spirit of place’ for Murray River communities – its geographies, time cycles, stories, cultures and people.

In farming communities facing rapid change, cultural gatherings play an important role in strengthening connections whilst acknowledging and celebrating singular stories of courage and resilience.

River Rites was such a gathering – a contemporary and localised rural rite; a rite that allowed the imagination to run wild and resist the quashing of human spirit; a process celebrating the resilience of rural communities encountering dramatic change and an honoring of the now fragile river system which served to build them.

River Rites draws on the worldwide cultural tradition of exhibitions and performances tied to seasonal revolutions, cyclical change and folklore in the form of elaborate disguises and publicly celebrated rituals. These rites link residents to their past and a future where their resilience is feted and their spirit of place is ‘unleashed’.

Concept and Artistic Direction: Jude Anderson/Punctum

Digital media: Jessica Foster
Disguise co-design and construction: Nici Wright with Robyn Andrews, Glenys Leske, Lorraine Marter and Ruth Pech.

Disguises modelled by Year 11 Drama Studies students at Berri High School.

Disguise materials and research were provided in collaboration with residents of the Berri/Barmera Riverland district.

Photographs by Julie Millowick
Filming by Terry Marter, Jessica Foster and Jude Anderson

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