Bringing a woman’s touch to Bunbury Fringe Festival, The Wilding Stories unites voices to call for an end to violence against women.

Showing at Bunbury Fringe Festival from January 22 to 25, the audio installation is a magical-realism story written and produced by Margot Edwards.

Throughout the audio experience, the audience is taken on a journey. Afterwards, they respond creatively to their experience through weaving, painting, movement, clay or words.

Edwards began to brainstorm the project after attending an International Women’s Day event in 2017.

“I was a story-gatherer at an event where 100 women were circling … I was wandering around with a big couple of sheets of paper and talking to women about women,” said Edwards.

“I was asking, ‘What is the first thing that comes to your mind if I ask you what it means to be a woman today?’ I ended up with two pages full of responses written like graffiti across these pages.

“The most profound response was from a young woman who had been working as a social worker in Melbourne. She was on the frontline with women who were surviving domestic violence.

“She gave a talk at the event and everyone was rivetted, so as I went around after that, that topic of domestic violence started to be the main part of the conversation.”

Edwards began moulding the answers into a singular storyline. In 2018, she returned to the same event for feedback and eventually found the most powerful form the story could take: audio.

“All the way through, even from its earlier days it has been a call and response project. That I tell you and you tell me style,” she said.

“I wanted to get to women in their homes and lives; in their world.”

Developing it through feedback, Edwards connected with Noongar actress Dr Lynette Narkle and Wangai actress Melodie Reynolds-Diarra.

Dr Narkle worked with Edwards to create an English Noongar version. Both Dr Narkle and Reynolds-Diarra have taken on the role of storytellers, narrating audio for the experience. 

“I’d never heard of the idea or concept of how a story could touch something, like domestic violence and the power of the feminine, but it really did,” Reynolds-Diarra said.

“It is extremely powerful, in that same way you sit around the fire and yarn. In Blackfulla families you always have that deadly yarn teller where you sit down, and they have the room as soon as they start … everyone listens to them. It pulls it down to just that.

“There is no distraction, just that raw voice.”

Reynolds-Diarra hopes those experiencing The Wilding Stories are able to unlock that creative instinct.

“The type of woman we’re looking at might not have done anything like this before. [They] might not have looked at their creative side and how that helps them express themselves and heal,” she said.

“We’re all creative fullas, we need creativity in our lives one way or the other. It’s getting our spirit creative, and getting perspective. We want to empower that creative spark in all women and give them that perspective for everyday life.

“For creativity to happen there has to be that safe space. Getting people used to that is important, but it’s what you do as a kid.

“It’s with us always, it’s just remembering it. Learning how to play again.”

Designed to approach the big things, break them down and build connection, The Wilding Stories aims to reclaim femininity and power in the face of patriarchy.

“It’s a conversation that the whole world of women are having, and men are having too. Reclaiming is the purpose of this project,” Edwards said.

“I think trusting one another and asking for help are two very important things. Letting go of our defensiveness … to asking for help, sharing love and being part of a sisterhood. We have to do this together, we need to stand together.

“It is what this is about, women doing business in women’s way.”

Edwards has created a private event for Noongar women on Sunday January 24. This event will see the sharing of the audio which is narrated by Dr Narkle and Reynolds-Diarra.

For more information on The Wilding Stories or to access tickets, visit: https://www.thewildingstories.com/.

By Rachael Knowles