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Cultural Tours 2023


The Gift of Mapuru

"In Mapuru, from Us to You, we thank you for your welcome.

In Mapuru, from Us to You, we thank you for your stories.

In Mapuru, from Us to You, we thank you for your weaving.

In Mapuru, from Us to You, we thank you for your teaching.

Oh Mapuru, we’ll hold You – in our hearts FOREVER!"

As I sit here in my lounge room quite some months after my return from the Northern Territory, a flood of memories engulfs me and transports me back to one of the most memorable experiences in my life...

The song (the words printed above) was what we as a group sang at the bungul on our last day with the Mapuru community. The words encapsulate the immense gratitude in all our hearts for our time spent with this beautiful community.

Although words and images flood my memory, I don’t think I could ever do absolute justice to express the myriad experiences and emotions that vibrated through every cell of my being on every one of those eight days spent in Mapuru.

Well before our group reached the community in Mapuru, the land and the air seemed to be throbbing with the need to make connection with the Earth - this wonderful and innate gift which indigenous people seem to have with Mother Earth...

On the morning we met at the Jingili Water Gardens in Darwin, one of the facilitators invited the members of the group to gather in a circle on the ground to enable us to introduce ourselves and to share some preliminary information. Getting down to the ground was no easy task but once seated on the earth, I could feel "the earth move under my feet."

How POWERFUL was that earth connection!!!

As the group shared their feelings and expectations about the trip, there seemed to be a strong thread of commonality – joy, privilege, gratitude... Thus was born another connection – a human connection between the participants and the facilitators.

The empathy and respect each of the facilitators had for the Mapuru community was palpable and a gift! Being present in those moments fanned the fire of enthusiasm amongst the listeners of what we could receive from a stay with this remote community.

On the first day of travel as the threads of friendship slowly began to weave the group together, a touching sight in Katherine began to unfold as we sat on the grassy verges of the highway after lunch. We were made audience to the most spectacular aerial display – two wedge tailed eagles whose nest was carefully lodged in a tree nearby began to circle and soar well above us. As they soared and then dipped towards the nest, they seemed to be telegraphing a message to us the onlookers – “Go out there, spread your wings, and circle back with knowledge to spread amongst others.”

Maybe, my imagination is vivid but I still feel the power of that message residing in me.

Stopping over at the escarpment on the first night was spectacular! A trillion stars glittering in the sky was truly mind blowing. The surrounding landscape of ancient rocks and tall trees stirred a strong sense of "awe".

Reaching the community on the second night held the same awe and wonder. Group members collaborated smoothly to unload provisions, set up a campfire and provide a meal for the group. Truly, a community in action!

The next morning dawned brightly as did every other morning for the next eight days. Breakfast done, we gathered in the Weaving Shelter to meet some of the women from the community who were going to be our weaving guides. After a short introduction, with the help of these women, the group became engaged in the task of weaving.

Initially, this was slow going for a few of us who had possibly not done anything like this before. Progress was slow but as the days went by, more baskets were completed and skills became refined. The most joyous occasion was when any participant put the finishing touches to their masterpiece; all present in the Shelter celebrated that achievement amidst much clapping and cheering. This enthusiasm buoyed our spirits and spurred each one of us to complete our individual baskets.

Besides learning the art of basket weaving from the women, we were taken to the places where the pandanus grew abundantly. With great precision, the women would slash the leaves of the plant and then heft them onto the tray of the ute. On our return to the campsite, the women would then strip the leaves and then boil them in large pots with a variety of roots and other items in order to dye them. The whole process of preparing the fibres for making the baskets was fairly labour intensive but always done with diligence and total focus to the task at hand.

Observing this commitment to the task was touching and a lesson in how to work conscientiously.

The young girls who joined us each day in the Shelter were a good example of the importance of community and the contributions each member makes to the whole. When not weaving a basket, they would play and cuddle the little baby whose mother was absorbed in teaching or weaving her own baskets. Something stirred within me each time I witnessed their ability to attend to this little child with such openness and affection.

Lessons kept on being learnt each day from developing the skills of weaving to Life Lessons:

* Finding the beauty in little things
* Experiencing the awe in Nature
* Persevering when things get a little tough

The list could go on but the most powerful lesson though was "Building connection between us and the Earth".

Watching the women work each day was an unfolding series of lessons about the values in life and how to develop a perspective which seems somewhat alien in suburban life. Valuing the earth and living in close contact with it – a practice which the women in the community followed so naturally and intuitively.

Every moment, every hour, every day were gifts for me. A sense of gratitude hovered within every fibre of my being and continues to vibrate within me.

I am ever so grateful to Ceres for organising the tour but my heart will always be grateful to the women and the girls in Mapuru for enlightening me and teaching me to truly appreciate Mother Nature.




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