Madarrpa Funeral at Gurka’wuy


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1979, 88 Minutes

The funeral of a young child on a clan homeland.

In 1976, Ian Dunlop was invited by Dundiwuy Wanambi, a leader of the Marrakulu clan, to Gurka’wuy on Trial Bay in the Gulf of Carpentaria. He wanted Film Australia to record the first major Marrakulu ceremony to be held at Gurka’wuy since its recent establishment as a clan settlement.

While they were there, a baby boy died. The Madarrpa men, including the child’s father and Dundiwuy, asked for the funeral to be filmed.
Mortuary rites of the Yolngu are extremely complex. Despite some practical modifications to traditional ceremonies as a result of life on mission stations, ritual remains extremely strong.

Because the Madarrpa funeral at Gurka’wuy is for a young child, and not an adult, the ceremony is relatively short. It is, nevertheless, still complex. Every part of the ritual is rich in symbolism and has many meanings. Because the deeper meanings are secret and cannot be revealed in this film it is not easy to explain the significance of much of the ritual. However, this film is a detailed study of the funeral ceremony. It highlights the complex connections of people of different clans.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.




Producer/Director: Ian Dunlop

Narrator: Ian Dunlop

Featured People: Dundiwuy Wanambi, Narritjin Maymuru

Year: 1979

Running Time: 88 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. Teachers’ notes and background material are included.

SKU 200790101
Brand Film Australia

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