Through song, dance, art and ritual, the Yolngu people of northeast Arnhem Land pass on their sacred knowledge, binding their ancient past to their living present.
The Djungguwan is one of their most important ceremonies. It tells the epic story of the Wawilak Sisters, two ancestral beings who helped create the Yolngu universe and gave the people their law. It is an initiation ceremony, bringing young boys into that law and teaching them discipline and respect. And it is a memorial to the dead. Every performance of the ceremony is a unique event.
Now, this ground-breaking two-DVD set brings together three Djungguwan films - made in 1966 by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, and in 1976 and 2002 by Film Australia at the request of Yolngu leaders who wanted to record their culture for future generations.
For the first time, Yolngu elders have also permitted secret-sacred footage to be seen, revealing some of the ritual preparations involved.
An introductory film and five mini-documentaries, including interviews with elders, academics and the filmmakers, provide invaluable information about the Djungguwan, the Yolngu and these remarkable films - helping us understand more about the role of ceremony in Indigenous Australia.
A Film Australia production in association with Denise Haslem Productions. Made in collaboration with the Yirrkala Dhanbul Community Association and the Rirratjingu Association. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Producer: Denise Haslem
Director: Trevor Graham
Featured People: Philippa Deveson, Ian Dunlop, Wanyubi Marika, Dennis Wukun Wanambi, Professor Nicolas Peterson, Professor Howard Morphy
Running Time: 366 Minutes
Classification: M. Consumer advice: Infrequent coarse language, mature themes.
Curriculum Links: Indigenous Studies, Studies of Religion, Legal Studies, Society & Culture, SOSE/HSIE, History, English, Media, Performing & Visual Arts. Teachers notes and background material are included on DVD.