Mullangari River Ceremony

A month and a bit after photographing Ngarrindjeri Elder Major Sumner (affectionately known as Uncle Moogy) on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River for the Centenary of Canberra, I was back at the beautiful Uriarra East in the ACT to photograph the Mullangari River Festival on the 25th and 30th of September. The first ceremony was held with members of the local indigenous community invited and the second was a public ceremony, with an open invitation to the wider community.

While similar, the two ceremonies had marked differences from one another. The first ceremony started while there was still a good amount of natural light left in the afternoon which made shooting without a flash really enjoyable. The first ceremony had a more solemn feel to it, and one that I felt a real privilege to be present at. The second ceremony didn't start until well after the sun had gone down, and with a large crowd attending the event, it had much more of a spectacle feel to it. The atmosphere was full of anticipation and excitement from the hundreds of people who had come to see the performances. As a lovely inclusive tribute, Uncle Moogy invited crowd members to dance at the end of the night, with a great number of people getting up and dancing together.

For the second show I set one flash on a stand and used radio triggers to fire it. This enabled me to roam around the performers and shoot from different angles. Both events were really great experiences and as summer fast approaches, Uriarra East is a great place to keep in mind for weekend barbeques and swims in the river. After witnessing these special ceremonies I will always feel differently about this land and the river that connects us all.

View information about the ceremony here