Roan-roan and connected, that’s how we make Karrabing

Medium Earth is an exhibition for the digital realm, exploring the vital ecologies that bind species together.

Karrabing Film Collective delivers a powerful manifesto celebrating the ‘smooth and rough’ practices that keep them connected to their ancestors and obligated to their lands.

In the Emmiyengal language, karrabing refers to the point at which the vast saltwater tides, along the northwest coasts of the Top End of the Northern Territory, have reached their lowest and are set to return to shore. Karrakul is its linguistic cousin, referring to when the tides have reached their highest point and are prepared to return to the sea (wutharr).

Karrabing is also a commitment to an ancestrally present way of belonging to each other, the land, and the more-than-human beings who travel across it. Karrabing acknowledges and respects the multiplicity of languages, lands and stories that characterise the family groups within the Karrabing Film Collective, while holding firm to the interconnecting stories, ecologies and social relations that hold them together in their difference.

Our films are not fiction or nonfiction. They come from and return to our ancestral lands. They emerge from and sink back into the lives we are actually living with our durlg (Dreamings).

If you want to see the future look at how you are treating the ancestors in the present. We sitting here hope to be the ancestors in the future.

Reject the idea that you are either on your own or you are in an undifferentiated space. Having and holding one’s own Country, language and stories depends on acknowledging the crossing connective membranes that keep them in place.

Karrabing Film Collective

Est circa 2009
Located in the northwest coast of the Northern Territory

Artists: Cameron Bianamu, Gavin Bianamu, Ricky Bianamu, Sheree Bianamu, Telish Bianamu, Trevor Bianamu, Danielle Bigfoot, Kelvin Bigfoot, Rex Edmunds, Chloe Gordon, Claudette Gordon, Michael Gordan, Ryan Gordon, Claude Holtz, Ethan Jorrock, Lethia Jorrock, Marcus Jorrock, Patsy-Ann Jorrock, Peter Jorrock, Reggie Jorrock, Daryl Lane, Lorraine Lane, Melissa Jorrock, Robyn Lane, Sharon Lane, Akadydia Lee Lewis, Angelina Lewis, Cecilia Lewis, Katrina Lewis, Marcia Lewis, Natasha Bigfoot Lewis, Shekina Lewis, Elizabeth A Povinelli, Quentin Shields, Aiden Sing, Amanda Sing, Cassie Sing, Deborah Sing, Kieran Sing, Kyle Sing, Rex Sing, Shannon Sing, Claude Yarrowin, Claudia Yarrowin, Daphne Yarrowin, Joslyn Yarrowin, Linda Yarrowin, Sandra Yarrowin.

Staying with the ancestors  2020

Keeping Country open  2020

How we make Karrabing  2020

from the series Roan-roan and connected, that’s how we make Karrabing

single-channel digital video

Courtesy the artists
An Art Gallery of New South Wales Together In Art New Work 2020 © Karrabing Film Collective


Roan-roan and connected, that’s how we make Karrabing is a new video series made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As COVID-19 creates new forms of separation, Karrabing remain insistent on staying together. Across an internationally mediated interview with Collective member Elizabeth A Povinelli in New York City, and Rex Edmunds, Cecilia Lewis and Natasha Lewis at Bamayak-Mabaluk, a discussion took place about the Karrabing vision of staying together in the face of the gale winds of settler aesthetics, capitalism and historical and contemporary settler governance, which spread toxic divisions and divisiveness across their lands.

Comprising iPhone interview footage, old camcorder recordings of trips to Bamayak-Mabaluk, and clips from some of their recent films, a montage aesthetically enacts the multiple registers of difference and connectivity that characterise the Collective.

Staying with the ancestors and Keeping Country open discuss Karrabing as an obligation to the members’ ancestors through reference to two recent Karrabing films, Wutharr, Saltwater dreams 2016 and The mermaids, or Aiden in wonderland 2018. In these and their other films, the Collective do not merely re-enact their lives but engage with their ancestral presents and futures. Western obsessions with the difference between fiction and nonfiction give way to the multiplicity of smooth and rough practices that keep Karrabing connected to their ancestors and obligated to their lands.

How we make Karrabing is perhaps the Collective’s most powerful manifesto yet. It describes their vision of a form of collectivity that is one ‘mob-in-difference’ who must continuously confront the slicing, dividing and separating machinery of contemporary settler capitalism and state derived ‘recognition.’

— Elizabeth A Povinelli