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Dyarubbin, the Hawkesbury river, begins at the confluence of the Grose and Nepean rivers and ends at Broken Bay. In this exhibition, Darug knowledge-holders, artists and educators Leanne Watson, Jasmine Seymour, Erin Wilkins and Rhiannon Wright share their culture and stories of special sites along Dyarubbin as shared custodians of this beautiful and haunting place.
This long, winding and ancient river has been home to the Darug people for millennia and is a vital and sustaining resource. Darug culture, spirituality and sense of being are all intrinsically connected to the river. Its bends and features are encoded with meaning.
Dyarubbin’s fertile flood plains became prized agricultural land which was needed to support the early colony. 1794 marks the beginning of a period of devastation and loss for Darug people as settlers took land along the river, ultimately culminating in brutal warfare as Darug warriors fought to defend their lands and livelihoods.
The landscape of the river, the people who live there and the way it is used have changed, but Darug people still live, and thrive, on Dyarubbin. Darug knowledge-holders, artists and educators Leanne Watson, Jasmine Seymour, Erin Wilkins and Rhiannon Wright share their culture and stories of special sites along Dyarubbin as shared custodians of this beautiful and haunting place.
This exhibition showcases research established by Professor Grace Karskens in The Real Secret River, Dyarubbin, a collaborative project with Leanne, Jasmine, Erin and Rhiannon which won the 2018–19 Coral Thomas Fellowship.
Darug knowledge holders and Dyarubbin exhibition storytellers
Rhiannon Wright is a proud Boorooberongal woman from the Darug Nation who is the daughter of Leanne ‘Mulgo’ Watson and granddaughter of Darug Elder Aunty Edna Watson. Rhiannon has grown up on Darug Country and spent her life learning her culture, traditions and language through her mother and grandmother, in turn passing on and sharing this knowledge to her daughter Lyra — keeping the unbroken chain of culture that has extended for thousands of years alive and strong through the generations.
Rhiannon is currently a part of Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation and is the Aboriginal Education Officer at Windsor South Public School where she very proudly shares and connects culture, language and knowledge with students and the wider community.
Leanne is a Darug woman commonly known in the Aboriginal community as Mulgo meaning ‘Black Swan’. Leanne is the daughter of Aunty Edna Watson and Uncle Allan Watson, Elders of the Darug community. Leanne was born and raised in Sydney, she is now a mother and grandmother and has spent her life living, promoting and protecting Darug culture, people and places.
Leanne has been Director of DCAC (Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation) for the past 15 plus years. She started painting at a young age, taught by her mother Aunty Edna Watson and her brother Bundeluk Watson, and is now an accomplished artist. Her paintings and artwork are well-known to many. Leanne’s artwork is inspired by her family, Darug Country, the environment and life experiences.
Jasmine Seymour is a Darug woman and a descendant of Maria Lock, daughter of Yarramundi, the Boorooberongal Elder who met Governor Phillip on the banks of the Hawkesbury River in 1791. She is a teacher, artist and published author of children’s books which integrate Dharug language throughout: ‘Baby Business’, which tells the story of a ceremony that welcomes baby to Country and ‘Cooee Mittigar’ (Come Here Friend), which is an invitation to walk on Darug Country.
Erin is a strong and proud Aboriginal woman of the Darug people. She loves passing down her culture and knowledge to her children and grandchildren. She enjoys being on Country, connecting with and protecting culture, participating in traditional cultural practices and encouraging others to share the old ways. Erin’s passion as a cultural educator is to continually work towards promoting and strengthening connection to culture and Country through education with people of all ages and backgrounds.