Learning Resource

Joel Bray
Giraaru Galing Gaanhagirri


Joel Bray, Wiradjuri people, Giraaru Galing Gaanhagirri, 2022, commissioned by the National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra for the 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial: Ceremony, created in consultation with Uncle James Ingram and Wagga Wagga Elders, and with the support of City of Melbourne, Sarah Benjamin and Phillip Keir through the Keir Foundation, City of Port Phillip, Create NSW, Blacktown Arts, Arts Centre Melbourne and Yirramboi Festival 2020. Courtesy the artist.

This multi-channel video installation depicts dancer and choreographer Joel Bray gently dancing on, and responding to his ancestral Wiradjuri Country.

Using a special technique for layering images together, parts of Joel Bray’s body appear to be covered with natural textures including water, grass and rock. By layering these images onto his body, the artist is communicating the close relationship experienced by First Nations people between body and Country. Giraru Galing Ganhagirri is a Wiradjuri expression meaning ‘the wind will bring rain’, carrying with it an understanding of the interconnectedness of nature, and the knowledge that one thing follows another.

What is familiar in this artwork? What is unfamiliar to you?

Artists Voice

‘it speaks of the diasporic experience; how First Nations people carry the ancestral memory of their Country in our bodies, even when we live away”.

Where is a place you have spent a lot of time? What do you do in this place?

Thinking about this place where you have spent a lot of time, imagine all the things that are in this place.

Use your whole body to tell the story of the things that are in this place.

How would you use your body to tell the story of trees? Of the wind? Of water?

When you have a few movements, see if you can put them together to make a dance that tells the story of this place.

From the Audio Tour:

Artist Joel Bray on Giraaru Galing Gaanhagirri

I was never athletic, I was never artistic and I was never musical. The moment when the penny dropped for me, I was up on Wiradjuri Country and I was observing this flock of, of swallows flying in between the limbs of a tree and between each other. They didn't seem to be, you know, feeding or breeding, they were just dancing. And it was in that moment that I decided to become a dancer.

We carry in our bodies ancestral memory of Country. Whenever I go back, I hear the birds again, or I go and put my feet in the Murrumbidgee River. I have this memory. But it's a memory that's longer and more ancient than my own life. And it's something that all First Nations people that I speak with have.

‘Giraaru galing ganhaagirri’ has a kind of poetry to it. It has alliteration that I love and it means ‘the wind will bring rain’. Sometimes when I know a storm has come down through Wiradjuri Country, crossed over the Murray River down to Naarm, down to Kulin Country, I’ll go and stand outside in that storm and let the water pour over me. It’s a way of connecting with my Country, especially during the lockdown, in this visceral, corporeal, real way. Not only is there this recognition that there are these cycles in Country, but you carry them with you in memory.

— Joel Bray, 2021