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FOUR FILMS ON NARRITJIN MAYMURU

Australia, 1981 (MIFF 1982)

Director: Ian Dunlop, Dean Semler

The films are part of a long-term project being carried out at Yirrkala in north-east Arnhem Land. Narritjin is leader of the Manggaliii clan of north-east Arnhem Land. He and his family have spent most of their lives at Yirrkala Mission; but in 1974 they moved out 200 km south to their own clan land at Djarrakpi on the northern headland of Blue Mud Bay. Part One shows them establishing their own small settlement at Djarrakpi. Here they live largely off the land and the sea. They also produce bark paintings and craft work to sell at Yirrkala. Through bark paintings, Narritjin teaches his sons about their clan land and its ancestral history. This film, together with Part Two, gives an insight into Narritjin's family life and his role as an educator to his sons. Yolngu dialogue is translated throughout in sub-titles.

Part Two continues the life of Narritjin and his family at his clan settlement at Djarrakpi. His small community has been increased by the arrival of two married daughters and their families and some other young relatives. Narritjin continues to paint. One of his sons makes a yidaki (didgeridoo or drone pipe) for the tourist trade. Wild honey is an important delicacy and everyone makes short work of a wild bees' nest they find. A major sequence in the film shows the young men spearfishing along the shore of Blue Mud Bay. Towards the end of the film, Narritjin tells of his feelings about Djarrakpi and of his hopes for the future.

In Part Three, My Country Djarrakpi, Narritjin talks about his land at Djarrakpi, one of the most important sacred sites of his Manggaliii clan. The film is set in two contrasting contexts. At an exhibition of his paintings at the Australian National University in Canberra, Narritjin explains the meanings behind a bark painting of Djarrakpi; then on the wind-swept sand dunes of Djarrakpi itself he explains the significance of some of the actual features of the landscape. Although Narritjin only reveals the "outside" or public meaning of his paintings, his statements indicate something of the different levels of significance upon which traditional Yolngu art operates.

Part 4, Narritjin in Canberra, shows how, in 1978, Narritjin and his son Banapana were awarded Creative Arts Fellowships at the Australian National University in Canberra. This film shows them and their families at work in their University Studio, both painting and giving a seminar to anthropology students. At the end of their stay in Canberra, they hold a major exhibition of the work they have produced.

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