Quietly last week, Senior Traditional Artist and Custodian Neville Namarnyilk and his family experienced his Namande content in mixed reality. It was a beautiful moment as his smile increased and he was able to come face to face with Namande, a being from the Stone Country in Australia's remote Arnhem Land. For the first time, in real time, in real size with voice and gesture commends, Neville came face to face with his custodial beings.
What did he say? "Gamuk - that's so cool. We did it. This is the new way. It's a little bit creepy, but it's supposed to be".
While that was an incredibly important statement, the true magic happened when Yanmalu, Neville and Bindi's 3 year old daughter could see what Neville had been describing. I watched as the magic unfolded - Neville started teaching Yanmalu about Namande in that moment. In the same way the story had always been translated, for at least 60,000 years and really, since time began. The tech became irrelevant as father and daughter engaged in cultural tradition.
"That is where the mixed reality magic happens. The space in between technology and people. The spark and inspiration for the teaching and learning moment".
Neville and I have been working together since 2015 in West Arnhem Land working out the practical application of augmented and mixed reality in remote Indigenous communities. We released our first mobile augmented reality app mid 2017, Indigital Storytelling.
We've asked and answered pertinent questions about community custodianship in the digital environment. We've tackled accessibility issues. We've worked out digital cultural protocols with Neville's people. We've tackled issues about death protocols head on. We've set up an economic development model.
Since the release of the mobile app, we've been flooded with encouragement, support, and requests to take it further. The community response has been overwhelming. If you are asking yourself how bringing to life Aboriginal creation figures in hololens is relevant, understand this. Since we released Namande, Neville has been overwhelmed with requests from Bininj to have Namande tattooed on their body. Tattooed. Owned. Proud.
Twelve hours after experiencing mixed reality, Neville declared "We are ready to go in to full production on my Country" and he described his vision for a cultural sharing experience.
Ready. That is word I've been waiting for, for 4 years. In 2018 we will produce an experience on Neville's Country, in Arnhem Land. Do we have a budget? No. Will we find the money? Of course.
On this journey, I get the feeling that I'm not exactly in the drivers seat. Things on Country will happen when they want to. They want to happen now.