Dundiwuy’s House Opening


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1995, 35 Minutes

This film shot in 1974 records the first part of an opening ceremony for Dundiwuy’s house after the death of his father-in-law.

For several months in 1971 Dundiwuy Wanambi and his wife, Gunapa, were living in a temporary shade at Yirrkala. They were awaiting the ritual cleansing and opening of their house. They had had to leave their house after the death of Gunapa's father, who had been living with them when he died. Now Dundiwuy has asked for his house to be ritually opened so he can move back into it.

The first part of the opening ceremony involves part of the story of the two Wawilak Sister ancestral beings. The Wawilak Sisters camped near the well of the great Thunder Snake. The well became polluted. The Thunder Snake rose up in fury and swallowed the sisters. Its thrashing body smashed down their stringybark shade and all the trees nearby.

Senior men sing of the Wawilak Sisters, as women and younger men are painted with Wawilak designs. Then in procession they all move to Dundiwuy's house and garden. In a scene of extraordinary intensity, men re-enact the writhing fury of the Thunder Snake as they smash down and destroy all the fruit trees in the garden. The film ends with men and women entering the house to begin its ritual cleansing.

A Film Australia National Interest Program produced in association with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.


Producer/Director/Co-writer: Ian Dunlop

Narrator: Ian Dunlop

Featured People: Dundiwuy Wanambi

Year: 1995

Running Time: 35 Minutes

Classification: Exempt from classification

Curriculum Links: Indigenous Studies; Studies of Religion; Legal Studies - Contesting laws: Heritage, culture and land; SOSE/HSIE; Australian History - of particular relevance for NSW History Stage 5, Topic 6 'Changing Rights and Freedoms' Section A: Aboriginal Peoples - Change over Time; NSW History Stage 4 'Aboriginal and Indigenous Peoples, Colonisation and Contact History: What has been the nature and impact of colonisation on Aboriginal, Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples?'; English; Performing & Visual Arts. 

SKU 200790112
Brand Film Australia

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