Community stories: 20 January 2023
Ramingining, an Aboriginal community home to around 870 people, is situated on the edge of the Arafura Swamp in Arnhem Land, approximately 560 kilometres east of Darwin in the NT. The community is made up of mainly Yolngu people.
Ramingining artists and community members, through the Bula’Bula Arts Centre, wanted to provide more activities that strengthen the community’s connection to their cultural roots, knowing this is integral to people’s health and wellbeing. They also wanted their young people to learn to practice and celebrate their culture from Elders.
Following Cyclone Lam in 2015, the community successfully lobbied for a new cyclone shelter. The completed shelter has multiple uses including as recreation centre, a space for youth programs, a basketball stadium and the occasional movie theatre. The concrete block building was practical but somewhat bland, without representation of the local Yolngu culture.
Thanks to a $9,973 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, funded by the Bertalli Family Foundation, the Bula’Bula Arts Centre was able to bring together the older and younger generations of Yolngu people to commemorate their culture through the creation of two large public murals on the outside walls of the cyclone shelter.
Yolngu culture is built on a kinship system that consists of two moieties, Dhuwa and Yirritja, and these are the foundations of the skin systems, totemic relationships, storylines, songlines and more. Each mural, approximately three by five metres, honours one of the two moieties. The murals are a huge achievement visually depicting 20 unique stories. Twenty-one Bula’Bula artists, alongside about 20 Ramingining youth, created the murals over several sessions during the January 2022 school holidays.
The painting sessions were observed by many other community members, who came along to see what was happening. The murals have been highly welcomed by the community, bringing smiles and words like letchu (awesome), manymak (great) and yolngu rom (our culture).
The younger people have developed a better understanding of their culture, and the broader community has a greater sense of pride and self-esteem from the creation of a more culturally appropriate meeting place. The murals also act as a teaching tool, with many families coming to show their children and tell the culturally significant stories.
The Bula’Bula Arts Centre is a locally governed, owned, and operated Aboriginal Corporation situated in the heart of the community and plays an important role supporting more than 150 artists to maintain and strengthen their cultural practices. It also offers training, education, career pathways and enterprise opportunities, along with providing social services contributing to the social and physical health of the community.
The most successful and proudest part of the project for the Bula’Bula Arts Centre was the engagement of Yolngu people from the initial concept to execution and finally, the outcome and ongoing nature of keeping culture strong.
Dhuwa wall artists included: Gary Smith, Dorothy Djampilil, Daniel Warrulukuma, Evonne Rraraypum, JB Fisher, Joy Borruwa, Billy Black, Joy Burruna, Lisa Gurrulpa and Shannon Ashley.
Yirritja wall artists included: Joanne Mombuyngu, Selena Munguluma, Peter Gambung, Romeo Gaykamangu, Bobby Bununggurr, Andrew Malibirr, Johnny Malibirr and Evonne Gaywrri.
Artist helpers and art workers: Selena Galang, Kylie Pascoe, Steve Malibirr, Ross Dhaparuwuy and Jasmane Malibirr.
The East Arnhem Regional Council authorised the creation of the murals and also provided staff time in-kind to assist with the project.