[More details about this particular vignette to come . . . ]


* * * * * * * There are a few things to note with regard to the aesthetics of Yolŋu ceremony * * * * * * *

1. Yolŋu ceremonial performances are not polished 'performances' as one might expect from non-Yolŋu dance performances, or musical performances, etcetera.

2. There are often nearly as many 'non-performers' as there are 'performers' on the ceremonial ground - following, guiding, instructing, and thus ensuring - the 'right', 'straight', 'true' enactment of whatever 'buŋgul' (ceremony, ceremonial set) might be at issue.

3. Most ceremonial sets consist of a series of short 'stanzas', which form a larger, themed 'set.' This is evident in most of the clips above.

4. Yolŋu ceremonial sets - and the manikay (songs), gakal' (actions), dhulaŋ (designs), and yäku (proper names) that comprise them - are held as the collective property of particular bäpurru (parifilial socio-political groups). "They are part of our body", as it was explained to me recently - and they are respected and regarded as such.

5. I prefer (and think it most useful) to consider Yolŋu ceremonial sets as historicised narratives - they trace the history of the relationship between particular people, bäpurru, places and Country (wäŋa).

In this sense, each performer has a specific role and responsibility - to enact or reenact the right', 'straight', 'true' history of whatever relations might be at issue, or at stake.


This footage is from a Yolŋu funeral ceremony - held for the late Don Burarrwaŋa at his 'yirralka' (Homeland), remote NE Arnhem Land, May, 2012.

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