A black and white photograph from inside a cave looking out to Tunnel Creek

Jandamarra (Brenda Saunders)

Verity La Heightened Talk

High walls of sound ring the gorge once more
children whisper sacred notes in language
sing to heal their wounded land, call up
the Unggud Junba. A Great Snake returns
with sacred water to wash away the blood
the stain spreading on Bunuba Country
Brass and drums battle against their song
of suffering and regret, gunfire ricochets 
Cymbals clash painted warriors against settler
Jandamarra’s cry of resistance and daring
echoes through hidden caves along the creek
Young lips ripple his secret river awake
Their song shapes the hero’s epic journey          
fills the vault with Jalgangurru Dreaming  

Note: 

‘Jandamarra’ is a response to a performance of Jandamarra: Sing for the Country, by Paul Stanhope (text by Steve Hawke) performed at the Sydney Opera House on July 2014. It was sung in Bunuba language by the Yilimbirri Ensemble in conjunction with the Gondwana Choirs and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and depicted the life of renowned First Nations warrior Jandamarra

The gorge: Windjina gorge, Kimberley WA

Jalgangurru Dreaming: Jandamarra’s story

Feature image by Brenda Saunders of Tunnel Creek in the Kimberley, where Jandamarra hid 


Brenda Saunders is a poet and visual artist of Aboriginal and British descent. She has published three collections of poetry and her work has appeared in major anthologies and journals, including Australian Poetry JournalOverlandSoutherly, and Best Australian Poems in 2013 and 2015 (Black Inc). She has received numerous prizes including the Mick Dark Varuna Environmental Writers’ Fellowship and the Banjo Patterson Poetry Prize, and was a finalist in the prestigious Aesthetica Prize (UK) and the International Vice-Chancellors Poetry Prize (University of Canberra). Most recently she won the 2018 Queensland Poetry Festival’s Oodgeroo Noonuccal Indigenous Poetry Prize.