Videos of Aboriginal culture and events in the Top End, Australia

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Aboriginal culture and events in the Top End

The Top End of Australia is the furthest north you can go in the Northern Territory and includes the Tiwi Islands (Bathurst and Melville Island), 80 kilometres north of Darwin and the coastal communities of Arnhem Land, including Maningrida and Elcho Island, along the shores of the Arafura Sea.

Tiwi Pukumani ceremony
Pukumani ceremony, Nguiu
Stations of the Cross
Learning traditional dancing
Singing a Tiwi song
Tiwi boys make spears
“Bombing of Darwin” Dance
Football Tiwi Style
Míddjarn in Maningrida
Elcho Island dancers
Galiwin'ku dancers

In the Tiwi Islands to the north of Darwin, dances are accompanied by chanting and hand clapping; during their fast clan dances men often slap their upper legs. These dances are also performed at the elaborate "Pukumani" or funerary ceremonies of which there is two examples here. These clan dances are taught by elders in school and also appear in the performances of the "Stations of the Cross" at Easter in the school in Nguiu, Bathurst Island. This is a former Roman Catholic mission and aspects of Tiwi culture have been incorporated. A new development too is the "Bombing of Darwin" dance in which the bombing of that city by the Japanese in the Second World War is depicted. The first movies from the seventies and eighties on this page were recorded with an old 8 mm film camera or with an early model video camera and the technical quality leaves a lot to be desired, for which we apologise.

The traditional Míddjarn ceremonial dance of the Ndjébbana people is carried out by men and boys in the school grounds at Maningrida Aboriginal community on the north coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. It is a serious ceremony, but also fun for the children to participate in. Everyone is welcome to attend this ceremony.

The island community of Elcho Island (Galiwin'ku) is home to people who are called "Yolngu" (simply meaning "people") and has very active traditional dance groups, performing within Australia and also abroad. At the Sports and Cultural Festival in Barunga Aboriginal community near Katherine a group from the island performed and then invited members from the audience ("balanda" as white people are called there) to try out their dances with quite hilarious results. Another group was seen performing at the Laura Festival in Cape York, Queensland.