Giant tribute to Noongar women

Bindaran is powered by hundreds of LED lights that allow her to change colour. Video: Isabella Corbett.

A huge, illuminated puppet lit up Forrest Place last night to celebrate First Nations’ women.

Bindaran — whose name means ‘rolling thunder’ in the Noongar language — is 6m high and is built from inflatables covered in industrial-grade fabric, with hundreds of colour-changing LED lights woven around her lightweight PVC skeleton.

Event organiser Gillian Woods, a Noongar woman, says Bindaran’s spirit extends beyond the land she walks on.

“She represents the great First Nations’ women across Australia,” she says.

“Her presence in Perth represents Noongar women: matriarchs of Boorloo, storytellers, gatekeepers who pass on culture, kinship, family, land, and water.”

Gillian Woods

Bindaran’s matriarchal nature means she bonds with children as she tells them stories and invites them to hug and play with her.

Bindaran was created by Sydney-based theatre company Erth in consultation with Aboriginal elders. 

Artistic director Scott Wright says Bindaran honours the changing of the Noongar weather season, welcoming Djeran, the season of adulthood.

“Djeran is the season for taking our time and reflecting on what happened during summer,” he says. 

“It’s a time for the land to regenerate; Bindaran is this incredible storm that will bring rain and nutrients to the earth and plants.”

Local Aboriginal dance group Koolkanga’s Kreate play an important part in helping Bindaran share her story.

Dance coordinator Liz Narkle, a Noongar woman, says five-to-seven participants dance with Bindaran, and five operate her alongside several puppeteers. 

“The performers have been taught how to dance around Bindaran as djildjits, which is the Noongar word for ‘fish’,” she says. 

“The djildjits will weave in and out of her arms and around her while she’s swimming and walking around.”

Glowing djildjits dance around Bindaran. Photo: Isabella Corbett.

Mr Wright says Erth sought inspiration from the sky, ocean, and river when designing Bindaran. 

“It’s the connection to the ocean and rivers, where there are fish and people camp by the water,” he says. 

“The sky is very much the wonder of the stars; there are many dreaming stories that connect back to the stars.”

The bright blue of Bindaran is inspired by the sky, river, and ocean. Photo: Isabella Corbett.

He says Bindaran isn’t based on an Aboriginal Dreamtime spirit; instead, she embodies the stories of the land she travels to.

“She’s a contemporary concept of acknowledgement and recognition of women in our lives,” he says. 

“Because she’s a puppet, wherever she goes, she only speaks with the voices of the people whose land she’s on.”

To reflect the Whadjuk land she walks on, Bindaran is voiced by several Noongar elders and women.

Bindaran’s transient nature means she only speaks with the voices of the people whose land she walks on. Video: Isabella Corbett.

Bindaran will be lighting up Forrest Place nightly until May 1.