TEN CANOES LAUNCHES 12canoes.com.au
Following the world-wide success of Ten Canoes, the Yolngu people of
Ramingining in Arnhem Land are using the internet to tell their ancient story.
And story (as in cinema) is the operative word. Twelve Canoes is a website which
tells the compelling story of the art, culture, history and place of the Yolngu
people whose homeland is the town of Ramingining and the Arafura Swamp of
north-central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. This ancient people are now
‘wired’ to the world wide web.
The high-end site is a work of art in itself; honouring the people of the
Arafura swamp, and built around twelve filmed “visual poems” describing and
illustrating many aspects of Yolngu history, life and culture from Creation, Our
Ancestors, The Macassans, First White Men, Thomson Time, The Swamp, Plants and
Animals, and Seasons, to Kinship, Ceremony, Language, and a slice of
contemporary life in Nowadays.
Other features of the site include galleries which showcase Ramingining art and
artists, music and songmen, language and common terms, and photographs that
capture the essence of life in the region.
The website has been created and developed by filmmaker Rolf de Heer
(co-director of Ten Canies) and Molly Reynolds in conjunction with a
consultative committee from the Ramingining Community including Peter Minygululu,
Richard Birrinbirrin (associate producer on Ten Canoes), Philip Gudthaykudthay,
Peter Djigirr (co-director of Ten Canoes) and Bobby Bunungurr, all community
elders and artists in their own right.
“Back in 2003, while collaborating with the Indigenous Yolngu people of
Ramingining to devise a story line for the film Ten Canoes, a lot of material,
of greatly varied subject matter, was brought in for discussion, with the
individual Yolngu contributors each very keen to have their ideas incorporated,
and that the film in some way should reflect the entirety of their lives,
culture and history,” said filmmaker Rolf de Heer. ”There was soon general
recognition that no film could achieve all that, and the idea of a website was
"the aim of showcasing Yolngu culture"
“Twelve Canoes has been developed with the aim of showcasing Yolngu culture,
in particular the people of the Arufura Swamp, to the world. They are proud of
their culture and homelands, and they are proud to invite the world to share
this knowledge,” said project director Molly Reynolds.
The Twelve Canoes website was designed and built by Wanted Digital. Wanted
Digital is a creative digital agency who specialises in high quality planning,
design and execution of digital communications. Their ambition with the Twelve
Canoes site was to create an immersive digital experience in which the design
and navigation enhances, but never overpowers, the superb content.
Mark Eland, Wanted Digital Creative Director says “we saw this as a real
opportunity to leverage the online environment's strengths by providing a
experience that challenges DVD and cinema status quo by offering a more
immersive state of engagement.” The site was designed to take advantage of
engaging with high end video content through broadband access now and in the
12canoes.com.au is being hosted by the National Film and Sound Archive of
Australia through their website. The National Film and Sound Archive is
Australia's national cultural institution committed to safeguarding and making
as accessible the national collection of audiovisual cultural heritage to the
widest possible audience.
Paolo Cherchi Usai, NFSA’s Executive Director said, “The NFSA is pleased to be
the access and hosting partner in 12 Canoes as part of our commitment to support
creative propositions using new technologies and to work in collaboration with
Indigenous communities to support their cultural self-determination.”
Twelve subjects, each of which deals with a particular key aspect of Yolngu
culture, place, or history, were developed, incorporating works of art, video
material, stills, music and sound. These twelve stories, poetic in nature with
strong, sometimes ethereal imagery, are accompanied by words from different
1 Creation tells of when the people of the area came into being. As there are
many creation stories, this is the story of Dog Dreaming and his travels from
the Swamp to the sea.
2 Our Ancestors describes the way the Yolngu used to live, in the old times,
before the arrival of any visitors from the outside world, and how this society
used to operate.
3 The Macassans, from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, were the first who
came from another place. Long before the coming of the white man, the Macassans
were trading partners of the Yolngu, who were introduced to cloth, metal,
tobacco and sea-faring skills.
4 First White Men tells of the various wars, ultimately won at great cost to
them, fought by the Yolngu to protect their lands and people from the
encroachment by white man, including the Americans who tried ranching the land.
5 Thomson Time speaks of Dr Donald Thomson, the anthropologist who came to solve
the turmoil in Arnhem Land in the 1930's. Thomson learnt language, lived with,
studied and befriended the people and was a great advocate for them to
6 The Swamp describes the World Heritage listed Arafura wetlands just south of
Ramingining. The Swamp and its people have a historical, cultural, economic and
spiritual relationship which is now threatened by a number of factors.
7 Plants and Animals is about the diversity of plant and animal life of the
Arafura wetlands and surrounding areas, and their continuing but fragile
existence in a changing world.
8 Seasons is about how the blooming of a flower can tell you the sharks are
being born in the sea; it is about the interaction of the changing life cycles
that punctuate the weather patterns of the Yolngu year.
9 Kinship highlights the complexity and historical importance of family
structure and ancestral relationships. The expression of kinship today has
evolved, but its importance and complexity remain.
10 Ceremony is about the rites and rituals that describe aspects of the Yolngu
inner life, the ceremonies that bind the community together and keep the people
and their traditions strong.
11 Language tells the story of how the different languages were given to the
different clans of people of the region and describes the relationship of the
clan groups and the people as a whole to their languages.
12 Nowadays captures a slice of the contemporary way of life for the Yolngu in
the township of Ramingining.
A two-disc DVD version of the 12 stories and selected video extras will be
released through Ronin Films. A study guide for schools is also available.
Published September 11, 2008
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From September 8, 2008