Merrepen: The other side of the river

Merrepen: The other side of the river
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
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Over opening shots of the township of Nauiyu in the Daly River, the narrator Marrfurra tells us about the history of Nauiyu, a township in the Daly River region. After the missionaries arrived in Nauiyu, the old people gradually moved into the mission and began working there. Over shots of the river Marrfurra tells us there are lots of different languages here. Her people are from places like Peppimenarti, Ngambu Ngambu, Malfiyin and Nimalak. Though generations have been born here, Marrfurra states that this is not their country.

In the river there are barramundi, stingray, sharks and catfish and a lot of crocodiles. We see women gathering bush tucker, walking through the water lilies and harvesting crocodile eggs, yams and all different kinds of berries.

At the Merrepen Arts Centre, people paint and do screen-printing. Marrfurra tells us that there are not enough elders left, which is why the community '...are painting our stories and making things.’

Summary by Romaine Moreton

This clip talks about the various ways Indigenous peoples are coping with the loss of knowledge and tradition, the consequence of losing elders who hold that knowledge. The arts centre is more than a place to get together to paint and weave; it is a repository of knowledge.

Merrepen Synopsis

A documentary about the gathering of the leaves and berries from the Merrepen plant by Indigenous women from the Nauiya community on the Daly River to make dilly bags and baskets.

Curator's Notes

A wonderful documentary about the making of dilly bags and baskets. The observational style captures the ancient tradition of collecting the leaves, which are stripped and eventually coloured by dye made from the berries of the plant. The Merrepen Arts Centre in Daly River was created to develop a space where women can practice their cultural knowledge, preserve traditions and find ways to pass them all on. The gathering and preparation of the raw materials, from which the dilly bags are made, represents a tradition that is thousands of years old. The baskets, however, are a more recent skill introduced by the missionaries.

This program has also screened on NITV, National Indigenous Television.

Notes by Romaine Moreton

Production company:
CAAMA Productions
Executive producer :
Jacqui North
Series Producer:
Rachel Clements
Director and writer:
Steve McGregor