Yirrkala video art - Art Collector

Issue 47, January - March 2009

On the remote tip of Arnhem Land, the artists of Buku-Larrnggy Mulka, world famous for their traditional bark painting, are telling their stories with high definition cameras reports Amanda Woodard.

The Mulka Project is a Yolngu Aboriginal multimedia archive and production centre in Yirrkala, northeast Arnhem Land. As well as setting up a library to collect all the film and still images that have been taken of the Yirrkala community since it was established as a mission station in 1935, the aim is to allow the current generation to tell their own stories through the acquisition of multimedia skills. High definition cameras, sound recording equipment and computer software are available to the community so that they can make their own films, from writing to recording and editing, all under the direction of trainers.

Coordinator Andrew Blake says that it’s early days but already one artist, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, has been recognised, winning the three dimensional prize at the 2008 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. What is remarkable was that the video wasn’t intended to be an art film at all but was submitted to accompany a painting – part of an installation entitled Incident at Mutpi. In the video, the artist Nyapanyapa recounts her experience, in language and subtitled, of being gored by a buffalo.

Personal linear narratives are very unusual in Indigenous culture, where art is usually about sacred events that happen in a time zone that includes the distant past, present and the future. It’s very rare, says Will Stubbs, co-cordinator at Mulka, to hear this talent for storytelling on film and done with such charisma and humour. “What’s key in this video is that a black person holds the camera so all the richness of expression and gesture is still there.”

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