This is a photo-slide of one year in the life of one Indigenous Homeland community.
I took these photographs back in 2008/9 while living with my adoptive Yolŋu family in Camp on the network of Homeland Communities that comprise the rich social fabric of remote North East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
I recorded the music in Camp on the Homelands also.
The songs ('manikay') are here performed by my older Yolŋu brothers (wäwa'walala), sons (waku'walala) and grandsons (gutharra). These songs are part of the body or repertoire of ceremonial songs that belong (primarily) to people from 'Gumatj' and 'Warramiri' clan groups.
It is always heartening to know that there are still people who seek out independent accounts, representations or views of Indigenous Australia (beyond/as opposed to the dystopian fantasies of politicians etc. in the mainstream media).
You can find a recent piece I wrote on the struggle of the Homelands here: http://wp.me/pAp55-1kx
- - - - - - - - - Long live the Homelands! - - - - - - - - -
This interview series was created in 2008 in response to the Northern Territory and Federal Government's continued attempts to close down remote Indigenous Homeland communities in the Northern Territory.
The series was the initiative of my close Yolŋu kin. The questions asked in the interview are those that they chose - those that they thought most relevant and wanted to speak directly to at the time. I operated the video-camera machine and "asked" the questions.
The music in this clip is performed by my older Yolŋu brothers, sons and grandsons. This song is part of the body or repertoire of ceremonial songs that belong (primarily) to people from 'Gumatj' and 'Warramiri' clan groups. We recorded this song in camp on the Homelands. At the middle-house, at night, if my memories serves me well.
Any errors in translation are my own (and in the case that you should notice any, please get in touch).
You can find an overview of the struggle of the Homelands, which I put together just recently, here: http://wp.me/pAp55-1kx
- - - - - - - - - Long live the Homelands! - - - - - - - - - - -
Stanzas from a 'maypal buŋgul' - a Yolŋu ceremonial set pertaining to or about a particular type of 'maypal' (shellfish).
From @0:25 onwards certain 'gakal'' (actions) are observable as those of this particular shellfish (and these kinds of 'filter-feeders' in general) - the churning and 'spitting out' of water, sand and sediment, for example, and the creature itself moving along sea or rock-bed, etcetera. The 'clicking' sound of the shell-fish can also be heard at certain intervals (as sung by the chorus).
NB: the metal 'filing' sound is NOT part of the manikay! It is my galay making a luŋiny smoking-pipe (next to me).
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.
Something of a personal footnote on wäwa's (three week long) funeral ceremony, held on the Homelands, remote NE Arnhem Land.
The voice-over text is indirectly based on direct quotations from conversations with Don and other close kin (about kinship, Country, and ceremony). They are all common expressions - or ways of talking about such things.