Letter from Australia (February 2009) - Djalu Heals the World

As Australia faces the worst national peacetime disaster in it history, floods in the North and the global economic crisis, we meet an Aboriginal man of high degree, Djalu Gurruwiwi. Djalu shares his music and culture in order to bring peace and harmony to his fellow man. This letter from Australia features Part One: the music of Jimmy Barnes and Cold Chisel and Parts Two and Three: the music of Djalu Gurruwiwi also featuring Larrtjanna Gurruwiwi "Garrkuluk".

"And to whoever of you who come here to my land to learn I say "welcome, come to our land".

Djalu Gurruwiwi, 2002

More Information about Djalu Gurruwiwi

www.djalu.com

www.djalu.com/awareness.html

Rirtangu Yidaki

Djalu Gurruwiwi is a senior member of the Galpu clan and an internationally renowned  yidaki (didgeridoo) maker and player.

Djalu's expertise is an extension of the role handed down to him by his now deceased father, Monyu, a noted Yolngu leader in his time. Monyu instilled in his son the importance of culture and gave Djalu the responsibility of looking after the yidaki for the Galpu clan. This duty is all the more important when considering the fact that many clan groups throughout Arnhem Land look to the Galpu as one of the primary custodians of the instrument. And linked to the yidaki are many aspects of knowledge and cultural practice that are sacred, their hidden secrets religiously guarded by those in authority.

Djalu's custodial role saw him spend much of his time over several decades crafting instruments and refining his technique. The pieces he made were sold to the local community arts centre and to non-Indigenous workers and visitors in his community who probably did not appreciate the importance of the man and his work: to them, the yidaki was merely a novelty, a keepsake. Nonetheless, in this way, Djalu was able to make a frugal living to feed and to look after the needs of his immediate and extended family.

In 1986, Djalu's reputation as a expert yidaki craftsman was given a major boost with the establishment of the Yothu Yindi band. The Aboriginal members of the band commissioned their close relative and recognised elite craftsman, Djalu, to make instruments for them. These instruments toured with the band and were also used in studio recordings that were released under the Mushroom Records label.

As Yothu Yindi began to pique the interest of non-Indigenous audiences around the world with its blend of contemporary and traditional grooves, combined with the energetic stage dancing normally restricted to ceremonial rituals, so too did the yidaki awaken the dormant tribal instinct in all of us. Djalu - the gentle and quietly-spoken Galpu man who is fond of bright shirts and mirrored sunglasses – began to establish an international reputation. By the mid-1990s, Djalu's status as Mr Yidaki was cemented. Web forums and chat sites discussed Djalu's yidakis and why they were superior. His instruments were traded across oceans. Dealers and collectors clambered to buy his best pieces. Budding non-Indigenous  yidaki makers sought out his knowledge and special skill.

As a bigger international audience got to know Djalu, they saw not only a man possessed with spreading the message of the yidaki -  but also an incredibly generous and open-hearted human being. In between hosting the throng of overseas visitors who made their pilgrimage to his ramshackle house in remote Arnhem Land, Djalu balanced his time between family, community, ceremonial and public duties. In his Gunyangara' community, Djalu is a highly respected elder and a Christian leader - having completed studies in theology atNungalinyaCollege in 1994 in Darwin.

In 1997, Djalu took part in one of the most important exhibitions of Aboriginal art, the Painters of the Wagilag Sisters Story 1937-1997. Staged at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, Djalu opened the exhibition with yidaki playing and helped with the construction of a sacred sand sculpture in the foyer of the exhibition space.

In 1998, Djalu collaborated with Australian and overseas artists and printmakers in The Meeting of the Watersproject at the Northern Territory University.

Djalu delivered the first Yidaki Masterclass at the inaugural Garma Festival in 1999, delighting Australian and international guests with his challenging tuition and infectious personality. He has delivered all subsequent Yidaki Masterclasses at Garma in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Djalu's first international outing was in 2002 at the Rripangu Yidaki Festival - named in honour of his family run business enterprise - in the tranquil town of Eisenbach in Germany's Blackforest. He followed this up with a visit to the USA and Taiwan in 2003 where his mastery of the yidaki and natural charisma etched unforgettable memories in the minds of those in attendance. In 2004 Djalu and other members of his family travelled to the UAE for the Dubai Sister Cities Forum, and in 2005 he travelled to Japan for World Expo as well as Yidaki Festa.

Also in 2003 was the Northern Territory Export Awards held at the Crown Plaza in Darwin. Djalu accepted first prize in the Art and Entertainment category on behalf of north-east Arnhem Land yidaki makers. In 2005 Djalu played for Nelson Mandela in Sydney, Australia, in a special meeting of 2 great leaders. In 2004 Djalu was featured in the NAIDOC Week special of George Negus Tonight on ABC television.

Typically hewn from large termite-hollowed eucalyptus trees, Djalu's instruments are prized for their highly resonant qualities and shapely aesthetics. His ability to select the right sort of tree to craft into exquisite musical instruments is legendary among his clansmen and testament to his unparalleled skill and vast knowledge.

CDs

2001 Waluka: Gurritjiri Gurriwiwi featuring Djalu Gurruwiwi. Traditional music from north-east Arnhem Land, Volume 2. Yothu Yindi Foundation - Contemporary Masters Series

2001 Djalu teaches and plays yidaki (didgeridoo). Traditional music from north-east Arnhem Land, Volume 3. Yothu Yindi Foundation - Contemporary Masters Series

2003 Djalu Plays and Teaches Yidaki, Volume 2 (Songs and Stories from the Galpu Clan). Traditional music from north-east Arnhem Land, Volume 6. Yothu Yindi Foundation - Contemporary Masters Series

2003 Diltjimurru: Djalu Gurruwiwi. ON-Records & Djalu Gurruwiwi

Film

2000 Yidaki. Directed by Michale Butler and produced by Michelle White for Discovery Channel

Exhibitions: a selection

(1999-2001)  Saltwater Country - Bark Paintings from Yirrkala, Drill Hall Gallery, ANU; John Curtin Gallery, Curtin University; Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney; Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne; The Araluen Cultural Centre, Alice Springs; Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane

(1998)  The Meeting of the Waters, an exhibition of prints and works by artists from the Australasian Print Project, 24Hour Art, Darwin

(1998)  The 4th National Indigenous Heritage Art Award, Old Parliament House, Canberra

(1998)  Hollow Logs from Yirrkala, Annandale Galleries, Sydney

(1997)  The Painters of The Wagilag Sisters Story, 1937-1997, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

(1997)  Native Title, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

 (1996)  The Thirteenth National Aboriginal Art Awards, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory,Darwin

(1995)  The Twelfth National Aboriginal Art Awards, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin

(1995)  The Twelfth National Aboriginal Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.

(1995)  Miny'tji Buku Larrnggay, Paintings from the East, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

(1994) Power of the Land, Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

(1994)  The Eleventh National Aboriginal Art Awards, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin

(1994)  The Eleventh National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.

(1990)  Spirit in Land, Bark Paintings from Arnhem Land, National Gallery of Victoria.

Some Reading 

(2008) Aaron Corn, "Ancestral, Corporeal, Corporate: Traditional Yolnu Understandings of the Body Explored",borderlands, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2008

(2006) Aaron Corn, A Legacy of Hope: Manduwuy Yunupinu on Meaning and Yolnu Agency in the Music of Yothu Yindi, Context, 31

(2006) Aaron Corn, “Rom and the Academy Repositioned: Binary Models in Yolnu Intellectual Traditions and their Application to Wider Intercultural Dialogues” in L. Russell (ed.) Boundary Writing: An Exploration of Race, Culture and Gender Binaries in Contemporary Australia, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 170-197

(2005) Toner, P.G, Tropes of Longing and Belonging: Nostalgia and Musical Instruments in Northeast Arnhem Land, Yearbook of Traditional Music, 37 (2005) p. 1-24

(2005) Toner, P.G, “Tropes of Longing and Belonging: Nostalgia and Musical Instruments in Northeast Arnhem Land”, Yearbook of Traditional Music, 37,  p. 1-24

(2004) Guan Lim, Dhangal Gurruwiwi & Djalu Gurruwiwi, Yidaki: A Perspective from north-east Arnhem Land. In: The Didgeridoo Phenomenon. From Ancient Times to the Modern Age. Didgeridoobau. Edited by David Lindner. Traumzeit-Verlag, Schoenau, Germany

(2003) Guan Lim, Dhangal Gurruwiwi & Djalu Gurruwiwi, Yidaki: Eine Perspektive aus Nordost-Arnhemland. In: Das Didgeridoo-Phaenomen. Von der Urzeit zur Moderne. Didgeridoobau. Edited by David Lindner. Traumzeit-Verlag, Schoenau, Germany

(2002) Djalu Gurruwiwi, Garma Festival 2002, Gulkula, Northeast Arnhem Land. Translation and notes by Randin Graves, Waymamba Gaykmanu, and Dhanggal Gurruwiwi

(2001) Schebeck, B. and R. M. W. Dixon. Dialect and social groupings in Northeast Arnheim  Land.Muenchen, LINCOM Europa.

(2001) Schebeck, B. and R. M. W. Dixon. Dialect and social groupings in Northeast Arnheim [i.e. Arnhem] Land. Muenchen, LINCOM Europa.

(2000) Saltwater ,Yirrkala Bark paintings of Sea Country Powerhouse Museum, Sydney (Berndt 1952; Wells and Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

(1999). Saltwater : Yirrkala bark paintings of sea country : recognising indigenous sea rights.Neutral Bay, N.S.W., Buku-Larrngay Mulka Centre in association with Jennifer Isaacs Publishing.

(1999). Saltwater : Yirrkala bark paintings of sea country : recognising indigenous sea rights. Neutral Bay, N.S.W., Buku-Larrngay Mulka Centre in association with Jennifer Isaacs Publishing.

(1998) 4th National Indigenous Heritage Art Award, Old Parliament House, Canberra.

(1997). Caruana, W., N. Lendon, et al.  The Painters of the Wagilag sisters story, 1937-1997. Canberra, National Gallery of Australia. Exhibition of Aboriginal art and artists (Wally Caruana, Albert Djiwada, Nigel Lendon and Djon Mundine) from central and north eastern Arnhem Land, specifically concerning the creation story of the Wagilag sisters.

(1997) The Painters of The Wagilag Sisters Story 1937-1997 National gallery of Australia 1997.

(1997) Neuenfeldt, K.. The didjeridu : from Arnhem Land to Internet. Sydney, N.S.W., John Libbey/Perfect Beat.

(1997) Neuenfeldt, K.  The didjeridu : from Arnhem Land to Internet. Sydney, N.S.W., John Libbey/Perfect Beat.

(1997) Caruana, W., N. Lendon, et al. The Painters of the Wagilag sisters story, 1937-1997. Canberra, National Gallery of Australia. Exhibition of Aboriginal art and artists (Wally Caruana, Albert Djiwada, Nigel Lendon and Djon Mundine) from central and north eastern Arnhem Land, specifically concerning the creation story of the Wagilag sisters.

(1996) John Cawte, Healers of Arnhem Land, University of NSW Press, Sydney

(1995) The Twelfth National Aboriginal Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.

(1995) Miny’tji Buku Larrnggay, Paintings from the East, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

(1995) Harris, A. and Cape York Land Council (Qld.). A good idea waiting to happen : regional agreements in Australia : proceedings from the Cairnsworkshop, July 1994. Cairns, Nth. Qld., Cape York Land Council.

(1995) Harris, A. and Cape York Land Council (Qld.). “A good idea waiting to happen : regional agreements inAustralia : proceedings from the Cairns workshop”, July 1994. Cairns, Nth. Qld., Cape York Land Council.

(1994) The Eleventh National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.

(1994) Power of the Land, Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria.

(1990) Spirit in Land, Bark Paintings from Arnhem Land, National Gallery ofVictoria.

(1990) National Gallery of Victoria. and J. Ryan. Spirit in land : bark paintings from Arnhem Land in the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne, The Gallery.

(1990) National Gallery of Victoria. and J. Ryan. “Spirit in land : bark paintings from Arnhem Land in the National Gallery of Victoria”. Melbourne, The Gallery.

(1990) Judith Ryan, Spirit in Land, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

(1990) Jeanne Arnold, Barbara Philip & Djikundurru Burarrwanga, Nambara Art, Nambara Art, Nhulunbuy

(1983) Howitt, R. and J. Douglas. Aborigines & mining companies in Northern Australia. Chippendale, N.S.W., Alternative Publishing Cooperative.

(1983) Howitt, R. and J. Douglas. Aborigines & mining companies in Northern Australia. Chippendale, N.S.W., Alternative Publishing Cooperative.

(1982) Wells, E. and Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. Reward and punishment in Arnhem Land, 1962-1963. Canberra, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

(1982) Wells, E. and Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. (1982). Reward and punishment in Arnhem Land, 1962-1963. Canberra, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

(1952). Berndt, R. M. Djanggawul : an Aboriginal religious cult of North-Eastern Arnhem Land.London, Routledge & K. Paul.

(1952) Berndt, R. M.. Djanggawul : an Aboriginal religious cult of North-Eastern Arnhem Land. London, Routledge & K. Paul.

Overseas tours and performances

2002 Rripangu Yidaki Festival, Eisenbach, Germany

2003 Joshua Tree Festival, USA

2003 Indigenous Peoples Commission cultural visit, Taipei, Taiwan

2004 Dubai Sister Cities 

For more on Djalu and the world of the yidaki go to: http://www.ididj.com.au

Discography for this Letter from Australia

The great Melbourne maestro Andrew Baylor's, "Strange Land" from his CD The Bush is Full of Ghosts 1993-1996 is our opening theme. For this and more music by Andrew go to http://www.andybaylor.com.au

2001 Djalu teaches and plays yidaki (didgeridoo). Traditional music from north-east Arnhem Land, Volume 3. Yothu Yindi Foundation - Contemporary Masters Series available through www.djalu.com

2003 Djalu Plays and Teaches Yidaki, Volume 2 (Songs and Stories from the Galpu Clan). Traditional music from north-east Arnhem Land, Volume 6. Yothu Yindi Foundation - Contemporary Masters Series available through www.djalu.com

Cold Chisel, "Flame Trees" (1983) , Radio Songs A Best of Cold Chisel, WEA Records, 252362-1

Cold Chisel, "Cheap Wine" (1980), Radio Songs A Best of Cold Chisel, WEA Records, 252362-1

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 Special Thanks to Dhanggal Guruwiwi, Randin Graves, Guan Lim, Will Stubbs and Buku Larnngay Mulka, Aaron Corn and Richard Potok.