Ngurrara is a great interactive story written by Tyson Mowarin and illustrated by Stuart Campbell. This is a Ngarluma story spanning 30,000 years. Before white settlement, before the pyramids, before the Bible, there was Murujuga- the worlds largest and oldest rock art gallery. Ngurrara is told through the eyes of three young men as they fish, hunt and carve their own stories.
Throughout this interactive story the reader can listen and learn words from the Ngarluma language. There is also behind the scene for the making of Ngurrara, as well a rock art app to carve your own story.
Although Ngurrara is an original ‘fictionalised history’, it is based on real stories from a very real place. Ngurrara means ‘belonging to countryhome’ in the Ngarluma language. The Ngarluma people are the traditional owners of Murujuga, also known as the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia where the story is set. Murujuga is home to approximately one million petroglyphs (rock carvings), some of which are more than 30,000 years old. This story is about the Ngarluma people and their continued connection to their country over thousands of years.
Ngurrara is a collaboration between author Tyson Mowarin and illustrator Stu Campbell. Tyson is a proud Ngarluma man and the Director of Weerianna Street Media. Stu is the Digital Media Coordinator of Big hART’s Yijala Yala Project. Both project are based in Ieramugadu (Roebourne, Western Australia) and are principally supported by Woodside Pluto LNG through the Conservation Agreement with the Australian Government.
To create this story Tyson took the Yijala Yala crew and a number of young Ngarluma men to Deep Gorge at Murujuga. Together they walked through the story ‘on country,’ replicating a Ngarluma way of storytelling by travelling the story line while acting out the content. This triggers memories of elements of the story that may have been otherwise forgotten. Tyson directed a photoshoot that formed the storyboard for Stu’s illustrations. Stu then worked with young Ngarluma people to develop their computer skills and colour the images using Photoshop and donated Wacom tablets.
About the artists/partner orgs
Tyson Mowarin is an experienced filmmaker, director, writer, musician and photographer. His short films and documentaries have screened on ABC TV, been selected for the Dreaming and St Kilda Film Festivals and have won multiple awards including the Troy Alberts Award for Excellence in Cinematography. He founded Indigenous video production and photography business Weerianna Street Media. Weerianna also creates apps and produces iCampfire.tv, which Tyson describes as a place to broadcast, share and preserve Australian Indigenous culture.
Stu Campbell is an illustrator, writer and interactive designer. His work includes the award winning NAWLZ, a 24 episode cyberpunk series for web and iPad. Stu began working with Big hART’s Yijala Yala Project in 2011, since then he has mentored young people through the process of creating the award winning online lovepunks.com game, several short films and the groundbreaking NEOMAD interactive comic series and Warlu Song. All as collaborations with the community and skill development processes for young people.
Big hART is Australia’s leading arts and social change organisation, bringing artists and communities together on projects that inspire positive change through the arts. The Yijala Yala Project develops skills and content the community can use to promote their cultural heritage to a wide range of audiences.
The stories carved on rocks on Murujuga outdate The Bible. They have survived ice ages, severe weather and massive changes in the land and people.
Ngurrara begins 15,000 years ago. The area was bushland, reflected in the oldest Murujuga petroglyphs of bush animals like the kangaroo in the story. The fresher rock art carvings are of sea animals like turtles, and their age can be dated to 5,000 years ago, after the last ice age, when the sea level had risen and the ocean had moved 120 kilometers inland. The time and place is highly important in a whole world context, as it shows an understanding of a thriving society and culture many thousands of years before the pyramids, the Great Wall of China and Stone Henge. Murujuga does not have UNESCO World Heritage listing like these fiercely protected monuments, yet it remains on the World Monument Fund’s list of 100 Most Endangered Places in the World.
The Ngarluma traditional owners and neighbouring groups are concerned about the ongoing damage to Murujuga rock art from industry, vandals and four wheel drivers. “Vandals still write their names on stone with spray paint,” says Tyson, “over the top of carvings that are thousands of years older than the churches they worship in.” Stu says the rock art drawing app aims to raise awareness of petroglyph protection, “Draw on this app,” he says, “not on the rocks.”
Murujuga is not only an important heritage and conservation site but has ongoing cultural significance for the local Ngarluma people, who continue to visit and maintain their relationship with the land.
An area of Murujuga became a national park in early 2013 and is jointly managed by traditional owners and government to ensure it is looked after and protected for future generations. Tyson, together with Weerianna Street Media, the Yijala Yala Project, the Murujuga Rangers and the community of Ieramugadu, remains passionate about protecting, preserving and communicating the cultural heritage values of Murujuga.