Song for Dulka Warngiid (Deborah Cheetham)

Danda ngijinda dulk, danda ngijinda malaa, danda ngad
This is my Land, this is my Sea, this is who I am

Program note
Song for Dulka Warngiid

(Place of all meaning Bentinck Island in this instance)

A song in seven movements for flutes, clarinets, violin, cello, piano and soprano.

Each movement captures a section of the original painting and the artists who created it. My task as a composer was to respond to capture the vitality and presence of the Kaiadilt women.

Danda ngijinda dulk, danda ngijinda malaa, danda ngad
This is my Land, this is my Sea, this is who I am

Ngalla marraaju wuuju dulka kilwanmaruthu
We’ll show you our country

Kambardangu thuwathu janurruwath wirriwirri
With a loud roll of thunder the Rainbow serpent leaves tracks of rainbow colours

With thanks to the daughters and granddaughter of Mrs Gabori Dorothy, Elsie and Amanda Jane and Denise and to linguist Nicholas Evans.

i. Far Left
Mrs Naranatjil: Soft red mudstones from beaches

ii. Upper Left
Paula Paul: Shells echo the way women lay cockle shells in pleasing patterns when cooking them

iii. Centre
Mrs Gabori: Amazing brightness of the sun on Dingkarri

iv. Centre
May Moodoonuthi: Rocks that cover the beach

v. Centre
Amy Loogatha: Red of the saltpan and blue of the estuary at Dangkankuru

vi. Upper Right
Netta Loongatha: Story place

vii. Lower Right
Ethel Thomas: Marrayak (octopus, but also means a wasting disease that occurs if a food taboo is violated)

Tapestry created in 2007 at the Australian Tapestry Workshop.
Weavers: Amy Cornall, Rebecca Moulton and Cheryl Thornton

© Deborah Cheetham

Image: Wayne Quilliam

About the artwork
‘Dulka Warngiid (Land of All)’, 2007, designed by Sally Gabori, Amy Loogatha, Netta Loogatha, †M.M., Dawn Naranatjil, Paula Paul & Ethel Thomas, woven by Amy Cornall, Rebecca Moulton & Cheryl Thornton, 1.99 x 6.1m, wool, cotton. Collection: Melbourne Recital Centre.


Deborah Cheetham, Yorta Yorta woman, soprano, composer and educator has been a leader and pioneer in the Australian arts landscape for more than 25 years. In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Cheetham was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for ‘distinguished service to the performing arts as an opera singer, composer and artistic director, to the development of Indigenous artists, and to innovation in performance.’

In 2009, Cheetham established Short Black Opera as a national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the development of Indigenous singers. The following year she produced the premiere of her first opera, Pecan Summer. This landmark work was Australia’s first Indigenous opera and has been a vehicle for the development of a new generation of Indigenous opera singers.

In 2015, Cheetham was inducted onto the Honour Roll of Women in Victoria and in April 2018 received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia for her pioneering work and achievements in music.

In 2019, Cheetham established the One Day in January project designed to develop and nurture Indigenous orchestral musicians, launching Ensemble Dutala in 2021. She received the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award for service to music in Australia and the Merlyn Myer Prize for Composition, the Melbourne Prize for Music and in 2019 was inducted onto the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll.

Related Articles

Skip to content