campus news & events

Storyteller and Performer Paul Taylor Presents “Lightning Brothers,” An Intimate Look at Australia's Wardaman Aboriginal Culture

NEW LONDON, N.H., Oct. 12, 2009 - Colby-Sawyer College will host Australian performer and storyteller Paul Taylor's “Land of the Lightning Brothers,” a visual presentation that features 8,000-year-old rock paintings and traditional stories of the Wardaman aboriginal culture of northern Australia.

The “Land of the Lightning Brothers,” hosted by the Colby-Sawyer Cultural Events Committee, will be presented on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m. in Wheeler Hall at the Ware Campus Center. Admission is free and the public is welcome to attend.

As a long-time performer and traveler, Taylor has carved a career out of field research and presentations that showcase the legacy of the Wardaman culture. A native of Adelaide, South Australia, Taylor spent time after graduating from University of South Australia engaged in social work among the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory of Australia.

Through his work, he gained a greater appreciation for the culture and was introduced to the musical tradition of the didjeridoo, a hollowed-out eucalyptus tree trunk that is used as a wind instrument. The instrument, which was invented over a thousand years ago, is often accompanied by song and dance to form an integral part of cultural ceremonies.

Taylor began working closely with the Wardaman people in 1988 under the mentorship Yidunduma Bill Harney, the last remaining male custodian of the Wardaman culture. Since then, he has been working to spread knowledge of the culture through presentations, song, dance, and art to carry out Harney's wishes to, “Tell 'em, Paul, in America all about the Lightnings.”

Taylor has been honoring Harney's requests by sharing stories and photos about the “Lightnings,” which refers to the specific Wardaman rock art that displays the Lightning Brothers, two significant ancestral beings in Northern Aboriginal legend. Other images depicted in Wardaman rock paintings are also referred to as “lightning figures.”

Returning to Harney and the Wardaman people annually, Taylor has continued to gather information on the culture to present through slideshows like “Land of the Lighting Brothers.” All royalties received from his presentations provide support for the Wardaman people.

In addition to the “Lightning Brothers” presentation, Taylor has also initiated the Wardaman Dreaming Project under the supervision of Harney. The project focuses on documenting the Wardaman oral tradition in order to preserve stories for future generations by means of filming traditional ceremonies and storytelling. It is through the creation of this film archive and international presentations such as “Lightning Brothers” that Taylor and Harney hope to share and preserve the culture of the Wardaman people.

-Jessica K. McLavey '10

Jessica K. McLavey is an English major and an intern in College Communications at Colby-Sawyer College.

Colby-Sawyer, founded in 1837, is a comprehensive liberal arts college located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire. Students learn in small classes through a select array of programs that integrate the liberal arts and sciences with pre-professional experience.

Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main Street, New London, N.H. 03257 (603) 526-3000