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5 Seasons (2004)

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clip Everything has a cycle education content clip 1, 2

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Tom E Lewis introduces the concept of five seasons over footage of an overflowing Rose River – the land inundated with water, followed by a montage of a dry riverbed. Lewis describes the wet season over images of Indigenous men hunting birds, fish and a turtle. Lewis tells us that the people sing songs to the land, rivers and sea. They sing to the spirits of the animals that are hunted. ‘Everything has a cycle, and we are guided by this cycle’, says Lewis.

Curator’s notes

We are introduced to the ancient Indigenous philosophy of land management, whereby the people are responsible to and for the land with human social structure determined by the land and its cycles. Indigenous philosophy and its relationship with land are very different to western ideology for Indigenous people acknowledge that the land is alive, an entity and a being that requires respect.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows dramatic footage illustrating aspects of the annual five-season cycle identified by the Nunggubuyu people who live on the south-west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory. Footage includes the Rose River in spate, a tropical storm, a dry riverbed, firestick farming, circling magpie geese above the rich growth after rain and a turtle being caught. The clip is narrated by Tom E Lewis.

Educational value points

  • The five seasons of the Nunggubuyu people are illustrated in this clip. Migirarrga (May-July) is cold weather time; Durrmala (August-October) is turtle egg time, with hot dry winds; Barra (October-December) anticipates the coming rains; Barra Amilmilariri (January-February) involves very heavy rain with flooding in low-lying areas; and in Mariga (March-April), the flood plains dry up and comparatively cool weather can be anticipated.
  • In this clip the narrator Tom E Lewis identifies his people as Nunggubuyu. 'Nunggubuyu’ is the main language spoken at Numbulwar, the area depicted in the clip, as well as the name used to identify traditional ownership of the country on which Numbulwar is situated.
  • The clip describes Indigenous Australians’ deep affinity with 'country’ – the land they call home – as a defining part of their identity. For people living in traditional ways, this has produced a keenly observed understanding of their natural environment, its climatic conditions, the behaviour of its wildlife and vegetation, and the best places to hunt and gather food. Humans are just one aspect of the world, which is viewed as a living organic whole.
  • The clip reveals how for the Nunggubuyu people 'every season has a song’. Participation in the land’s behaviour is detailed in song cycles and ceremonies that have ancient provenance and that are specific to location and events.
  • The Nunggubuyu people believe that their creation ancestors sang the world into existence. Singing the correct song at the correct place and time is a custodial responsibility reinforcing the connection with the environment and all beings that inhabit it, both spiritual and physical. Singing also ensures the continued cycling of the seasons and the balance of birth and death that this cycle represents.
  • The clip includes images of firestick farming, in which a small fire is started and burns slowly through the dry grass. This drives out animals and birds so that they can be caught but, as the narrator explains, 'we have to sing to the spirits of the animals that we are hunting’. The practice of firestick farming is still widely carried out today in the tropical and subtropical parts of the Northern Territory in the relevant seasons.
  • The footage in this clip indicates that the 'land’, meaning the country of the Nunggubuyu people, also has a maritime aspect in that the sea and the rivers of the region are important sources of food. Turtle meat – caught in this instance with the contemporary aid of a motor boat – is considered a great delicacy.
  • Narrator Tom E Lewis, born at Ngukurr in south-east Arnhem Land, has a wide range of artistic achievements to his credit. He is a gifted musician, has worked extensively in the theatre, and his film credits include the lead role in Fred Schepisi’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978). In 2005 Lewis was awarded the Bob Maza Fellowship by the Australian Film Commission for his co-authored short documentary film Yellow Fella.
  • Indigenous Australian writer and director Steven McGregor graduated from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in 2001. His documentary My Brother Vinnie (2006) won the Best Documentary Short Film at the 2006 Melbourne International Film Festival.
  • The clip is from a documentary produced by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), which is owned by the Aboriginal people of central Australia. CAAMA was established in 1980 for the social, cultural and economic advancement of Aboriginal peoples.

A boat travels Rose River at sunset.
Tom E Lewis (voice-over) Rose River, Numbulwar. This is (inaudible) country. Nunggubuyu people. And that river, him run from way up middle of Arnhem Land, and him flow out to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Shots of dramatic lightning, a tropical rainstorm and overflowing river.
Lewis (voice-over) In wet season time, the skies filled up with lightning. That rain him come and him fill up the billabong and the rivers. Fish everywhere. Following the rain, that country him dry up.

Shots of landscape during dry season.
Lewis (voice-over) Dry season. White people, they know only two seasons, the wet and the dry seasons. My people, Nunggubuyu people, we have five seasons.

Men in a boat at sunset hunt and capture a turtle.
Lewis (voice-over) Every season has a song, and we sing to the country which feeds us. We have to sing to the spirits of the animals who we are hunting. We sing to the spirit of the land, the rivers and the sea. And everything has a cycle. We are guided by the cycle. This is what we like to share.

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  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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