Karl 'Winda' Telfer on Dreaming in Light

Fest editor Laura Desmond chats to Kaurna Senior Custodian Karl 'Winda' Telfer about this year’s Yabarra project – Dreaming in Light

feature (adelaide) | Read in About 3 minutes
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Published 06 Feb 2020

An immersive experience within the walls of Tandanya, Dreaming in Light tells the story of Tjirbruki. Also acknowledged is the spelling Tjilbruke, but Tjirbruki is the first recorded spelling of the word from the old traditions. A tale of family, loss and grief, this story was chosen in part to acknowledge Telfer's mother – Kaurna Senior Woman Aunty Georgina Williams. “[Williams] worked tirelessly to bring the Tjirbruki story to life by marking the locations back in the 80s,” says Telfer. “It’s been 40 years of hard yakka and it took an Aboriginal woman to do that.”

Formed in partnership with Yellaka, Monkeystack and Adelaide Fringe, this experience embodies Yellaka’s mantra of ‘old wisdom, new ways’. Telfer has always been interested in blending new technologies with storytelling. “I’ve got these ideas for stories,” he says, “but how can we tell them? How do we bring them to life with the people and the culture?” Using projections, lighting and dry ice, Dreaming in Light explores vast areas of Kaurna country, following the same trail as Tjirbruki.

Dreaming in Light tells the story of Tjirbruki, but there are so many other elements – the stories of the stars and the ancestors are so important,” Telfer says. It is an encompassing story – with meaning far beyond the events which occur, with a pertinent environmental message. “It’s about looking after and caring for our environment and protecting these few open space places we have left,” says Telfer. “Outside of the Fringe, after it’s over – the rocks are still there, the country is still there, so come and walk with us over country. We’re happy to guide people through that story.”

Telfer has been leading the way in new forms of storytelling for a number of years, including a decade with Adelaide Fringe. “These new ways are the future of our culture and our storytelling and I’m just happy to be at the forefront,” he says. “Especially here on country at Tandanya.

“I’m passing on stories to my daughters and the ancestors are with us,” Telfer acknowledges. “You can’t tell a story without recognising the senior people who have been carrying and fighting for the story for a long time.”

Storytelling is such a large part of Indigenous culture, and the tradition is still hugely important today. “Sharing is for the betterment of humanity, not for gain or self gratification or self importance,” says Telfer. “It’s for everybody to gain the understanding of the story so we can work together and be together.

“There’s a lot of trouble coming up. We’ve got to be strong together.”