• Dr. Kelsey Ashe

'Bilya Bidi Crossings' Book Launch Fremantle Biennale 2021


A lasting legacy to the cultural and social impact left by the Fremantle Biennale, this book is an illustrated monograph that speaks to the theme of CROSSING 21.

Contextualising Walyalup’s (Fremantle’s) history and the subsequent layering of colonial and contemporary narratives, the book will hold a collection of essays, reflections, poem and correspondences, illustrated by the works of contemporary artists, writers, community leaders and Whadjuk Noongar Traditional Owners.

Crossings Bilya Bidi is itself a love letter, a site-responsive and a heartfelt attempt to speak back to place.

Items will be shipped in the second week of November.

Crossings Bilya Bidi will be available for sale from November 2021 - go to https://fremantlebiennale.com.au/product/crossing-2021-publication/


Edited by Dr Kelsey Ashe, Sandra Harben and Tom Mùller, with contributions by Tyson Yunkaporta, Clothilde Bullen, Grant Revell, Len Collard, Dr Cassie Lynch and many others.


Designed by: TERMSOFSERVICE™


Bilya Bidi Crossings was launched on November 10th 2021 at the Gin Distillery Fremantle. I was very pleased to contribute to this book and address the audience on Opening night: "Kaya Everyone, Thankyou all for being here at the Launch of Bilya Bidi Crossings.­

I know we are interrupting your wonderful conversations about boats laden with limestone sinking to the bottom of the Derbal Yerrigan and re-countings of the amazing Moombaki sky event and the imminent Vespers of trailing boats floating along the tide at sunset, tales of the old limestone bar crossing that once was right here – literally in Manjaree the central part of modern day Fremantle …. And all the other wonderful events going on, so I won’t speak for long.


Really though, that is exactly what this book is all about – it is the uncovering of these wonderful stories of Walyalup, in particular the much Deeper histories of this place, the ones that have been in place for Millenia that are embedded into every tree, stone and shell and rocky outcrop of this place. These oral histories and stories connect us with Country in such a powerful and meaningful way, which is so important, because the result is that we want to take better care of Country, better care of our beautiful river and oceans and form richer understanding of this place we all call home.


The Biennale this year has had a focus on collaborative works between Wadjela and Nyungar artists, which has been facilitated by regular yarning sessions ‘Creative Conciliation’ Sessions right from the start, where basically we talked, listened, discussed and contemplated how to bring these deeper stories of Walyalup to the surface, working together and present them within the Crossing Program. Sandra Harben and Rohin Kickett have been absolutely essential to that process and I want to thanks them sincerely for their generosity in sharing their knowledge and insights all throughout the 18 month lead up to the festival. This really is where the magic is – in that process. The Sharing of language and traditional knowledge Sandra and Rohin’s thoughts and words are recorded here in Bilya Bidi for you to absorb.


We wanted the book to be different to a usual Program Catalogue, so as the ideas for the content of the book developed, and the artists continued to expand their ideas for the of their site specific artworks, the idea of Koortboodjar kept cropping up – Love of Place, a way to listen and speak back to place and find ways of belonging no matter your heritage, background, creed, race or colour. This resulted in the Chapter where the artists of the Biennale wrote Love letters to Place – Koort Boodjar - expressing their ties to the Walyalup area in a multitude of ways.


As the contributors we approached took a range of methodologies, the book morphed into an anthology of artistic dialogue, place sensitive letters, poetry and essays that emphasize the key concerns of the broader Arts Festival; CROSSING21.


There are poems from Jennifer Kornberger and Jazz Money, letters from all the artists, Brilliant Essays from Julian Tompkin, Grant Revell and Len Collard, Dr. Cass Lynch and Professor Ted Snell, a poignant letter written by Mike Lefroy to his great great grandfather CY O’ Connor about the blowing up of the Limestone bar at the mouth of the Derbal Yerrigan – I won’t spoil this personal and heartfelt narrative. We interviewed the refreshing author Tyson Yunkaporta -whom you may know from his best seller ‘Sand talk, How indigenous Thinking can save the World’ and we also interviewed the brilliant Clothilde Bullen, Head of Indigenous Programs and Curator at Art Gallery of WA. Sandra and I co-wrote an essay on the development of collaborative practice and how the Settler artist can de-colonise and indigenise their approaches to art making via inter-cultural action research.


Indigenisation is happening across multiple fields and sectors, can be attributed to a strong desire to right the wrongs of the colonial era but equally in recognition that Indigenous knowledge can offer solutions to some of the most urgent environmental, spiritual and economic crises of our times. The Biennale looks to Art as survival, to artists as visionary leaders, and the sites of wider Fremantle as spaces of shared ritual, sanctuary, arrival and imaginable futures.


This book is made possible through the effort and support of a vast network of committed individuals and organizations to whom we express our deep gratitude toward. I also want to say a special thankyou to Duncan Wright for the beautiful photos throughout the book and Graphic Designer Tim Meakins and Tom Muller as always, directing his discerning eye as Artistic Director, and my colleagues at Curtin University, in particular Dr. Michelle Johnston, author of 'Working Two Way" with Simon Forest. We hope Crossings Bilya Bidi will assist our audience to further appreciate the Noongyar culture of Fremantle both past and present, by fostering your own koort boodjar (love of place) and a sense of identity and belonging for all...." Many thanks to Fremantle (Walyalup) XXX Dr. Kelsey Ashe 10/11/21


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