Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance’s Storytelling to Design Project in 2013 is a fine example of the power of collaboration, stories and art on the Mid North Coast of NSW.

Supported by Arts NSW, Storytelling to Design: Guunumba ‘Bring to Life’ was a series of retreats which brought together Gumbaynggirr Elder, writer and poet Aunty Bea Ballangarry, experienced writer and poet John Bennet as well as three emerging Aboriginal women writers to create contemporary Aboriginal stories.

With picturesque North Farm in North Bellingen as the backdrop, Aunty Bea mentored the women to create their own meaningful cultural stories.

Between them, the writers produced 18 stories – a mix of children’s stories, contemporary legends, stories of family and cultural history.

In the third and final retreat, these stories were translated into designs with the support of two Aboriginal artists/designers, the National Aboriginal Design Agency and two designers from Instyle, suppliers of high-end interior fabric and textiles.

The stories that arose from the project came together at that year’s Saltwater Freshwater Festival in Kempsey. The three writers, supported again by Aunty Bea Ballangarry, performed their stories in the Storytelling Tent, followed by a Q&A with the audience.

The writers created a partnership with the Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival, enabling them to perform their stories for a second time as part of the festival program.

What do people say?

"As soon as I heard the stories I knew I was listening to legends in the making"

Aunty Bea Ballangarry, Aboriginal Elder, writer and poet