Tradition, culture and legacy are important parts of any community, and this week’s Griffith Grows ’Em Good profile is of two sisters aiming to keep these three ideals alive.
Kerry and Rayma Johnson were born and raised in Griffith, and say their upbringing here define who they are now.
Both living in Sydney, they have been involved with the indigenous dance industry for over 30 years, and attribute their dedication to school excursions to Sydney.
For Rayma, the dance group has deep personal significance, as the group honours the memory of her daughter, who committed suicide.
We feel that it’s our duty to share our Wiradjuri culture and also create those opportunities for our community, to have access to performing arts and dance culture.Kerry Johnson
“We formed the Buuja Buuja Butterfly dance group in 2014 in memory of my daughter whom sadly I lost in 2013 … before she passed she was the one who always said to me, mum we dance all these different dances, but we’ve never really had our own. It’s only after she left us that we put it together,” said Rayma.
The dance group have just entered in the Sydney Dance Rites contest which happens November 26 at Sydney Opera house, with the winner receiving $20,000 prize money.
“We entered because I felt it was the right time, going through my grieving process I discovered the Wiradjuri story about the goanna wives, and I said Kerry this is why we had to wait, this is what we are meant to do. Things fall into place when they are meant to,” Rayma said.
Kerry was initially against the idea of competing for dance, as she felt it exploited the Wiradjuri culture, however after seeing other cultures represented, changed her mind.
“I’ve never liked the competitive aspect, winning money, and using culture in that way. But I’ve seen the interest in other communities and what it actually achieves, people coming together to showcase and share their culture, it’s changed my perspective. Our group is all descended from Wiradjuri – the largest tribe – and it’s important to have our culture and community represented.”
If the group wins the prize money, they will put it to use to increase the cultural exposure of students in the Wiradjuri community, and to raise awareness about mental heath and suicide in the Aboriginal population.
“We feel that it’s our duty to share our Wiradjuri culture and also create those opportunities for our community, to have access to performing arts and dance culture,” Kerry said.