The Rivers Sing

By Litmus Media

In the build-up to RISING festival, prolific opera singer Deborah Cheetham AO and artists Thomas Supple and Byron J. Scullin have collaborated to create a large-scale sonic artwork travelling the lengths of the Birrarung and Maribyrnong rivers. The Rivers Sing began winding down the Birrarung and Maribyrnong from the TarraWarra Museum of Art for the 2021 Biennial, and will eventually culminate in the heart of the Birrarung – creating a sonic reflection of the place, time and meaning.

In our podcast episode discussing The Rivers Sing, Deborah Cheetham and journalist Daniel Browning highlight the cultural genocide still felt today by First Nations’ people, especially in the redirection of waterways in Victoria and its lasting effects on indigenous people’s connection to land.

Grounded in the indigenous history of the Maribyrnong and Birrarung – the point of connection between the two rivers is a sacred meeting place for those who once travelled along the river. While Australia’s ongoing colonial project has disrupted and at times even severed this connection, The Rivers Sing shines a light on the suffering of land, water and people. 

Cheetham, Supple and Scullin have worked together to create a work that demands to be acknowledged; the soundscape forces the listener to engage with the rivers and hear their call. The art acts as a bridging tool, essentially obliging even settler Australians to forge a connection to the waterways, anthropomorphising them and developing a relationship closer to that experienced by First Nations’ people.

The Rivers Sing will be playing along the Birrarung and Maribyrnong rivers at first and last light of every day between the 26th of May and the 6th of June, and RISING invites all to come and engage with the rivers’ voice.

Our podcast episode on the piece can be found via Spotify, Apple, or wherever you listen to podcasts.