SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert

Bangarra-Dance-Theatre-presents-SandSong-Stories-from-the-Great-Sandy-Desert-photo-by-Daniel-BoudAustralia’s leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performing arts company, Bangarra Dance Theatre, brings the profound and deeply powerful production of SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert to Arts Centre Melbourne this August.

Under the vast Kimberley sky, the red pindan dust stretches across the desert homelands of the Walmajarri, where the ancient knowledge of People and of Country is preserved through Songlines that have endured for hundreds of generations.

At the heart of this land is the Living Water – Jila – that resides in desert waterholes across the region and is the basis of cultural beliefs and practices. SandSong tells the unique story of this Place and the survival of its People.

Between the 1920s and 1960s, Aboriginal people were removed off their Country and onto pastoral stations where they were forced into hard labour, usually for no wages and only minimal rations.

Despite this displacement and cultural disruption, the Traditional People of the Western Desert have maintained unbroken connection to Land and Country – keeping songs, stories and kinship strong.

This is the Country of Wangkatjungka woman Ningali Josie Lawford-Wolf (1967 – 2019), a close cultural collaborator of Bangarra whose spirit, stories and artistic contributions have inspired a number of the company’s works and enriched the broader arts landscape.

The Lawford family has long generational ties to this part of the Kimberley and are current owners of the pastoral lease for Bohemia Downs cattle station, allowing them the stability to continue to care for their Land, Culture and Community.

SandSong is a journey into ancient story systems framed against the backdrop of ever-changing government policy and of the survival of people determined to hold strong to their Culture. This work honours the legacy of Ningali Josie Lawford-Wolf and her family – past, present and future.

SandSong is created by Bangarra Dance Theatre in consultation with Wangkatjungka/Walmajarri Elders from the Kimberley and Great Sandy Desert regions, drawing on the stories, knowledge and memories of the past to create a new narrative for our Indigenous futures.

SandSong is a glimpse into the world of the Walmajarri people from the Great Sandy Desert and their inspirational story of survival as they overcome adversity to defend their land, identity and Cultural rights,” said Bangarra Artistic Director, Stephen Page, and Associate Artistic Director, Frances Rings.

SandSong has been choreographed by Bangarra Artistic Director, Stephen Page, a descendant of the Nunukul people and Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation, and Bangarra Associate Artistic Director, Frances Rings, a descendant of the Kokatha Tribe from the West Coast of South Australia.

Choreographers: Stephen Page and Frances Rings | Featuring: Dancers of Bangarra Dance Theatre | Composer: Steve Francis | Set Designer: Jacob Nash | Costume Designer: Jennifer Irwin | Lighting Designer: Nick Schlieper | Lighting Realiser: Chris Twyman | Cultural Consultants: Putuparri Tom Lawford and Eva Nargoodah | Cultural Contributors: Wangkatjunga and Walmajarri Elders

SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert
Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 24 August – 3 September 2022

Ulumbarra Theatre, 10 – 20 Gaol Road, Bendigo
Performances: 9 – 10 September 2022

SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert will also be presented at selected venues in Western Australia and the Northern Territory throughout October and November. For more information and performance schedule, visit: for details. Checkout the trailer here!

Image: Bangarra Dance Theatre presents SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert – photo by Daniel Boud