ABORIGINAL ART & CULTURE

Knowledge is power: The Mulka Project

Among the very precious things in Australia is the cultural knowledge of its Indigenous people. Today and at the Mulka Project’s home in Yirrkala, this knowledge and the latest technology meet, two knowledge economies entwined.

"What is so important here, in a country that has already lost so much, is that this sacred knowledge is preserved in a culturally appropriate and highly respectful environment"

The Mulka Project is based at the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Center, Yirrkala, Eastern Arnhem Land. Mulka means a sacred but public ceremony, and, to hold or protect. Here the rich and complex culture, the languages, histories and traditions of the region, are collected by a skilled team of cultural advisors, film and recording crew led by Joseph Brady.

Joseph

The Mulka project is a keeping place that holds and protects recordings, film and images in this major cultural archive, its purpose is to protect Yolngu cultural knowledge and to ensure this cultural knowledge is available to sustain future generations of Yolngu people. The Mulka project is also a rich resource for museums, art galleries and education around the globe.

The Mulka project is also a thriving hub of creativity with the team producing films, recording voice and music, attending sacred and public events and even sporting activities such as, the much loved in the region, Australian Rules Football. There is always an audience viewing material on the public computers or in the project's cinema facility. After school the centre is full of school children viewing the broad range of material made available to them. It is obvious that the young people love being there and are proud of their cultural heritage.

“We strive to employ and train as many Yolngu of all ages as possible in full time and casual appointments, currently we have male and female staff varying from 16 to 57 years of age. Our facilities are a media training ground for future Indigenous leaders. We make audio-visual resources available for secondary students, provide workplace training for graduates, create income streams for Homeland communities, employ cultural advisors, curators, translators, technicians and artists”.

There are of course strict and complex cultural protocols and some of the archive is not available to everyone because of the sacred nature of the material. What is so important here, in Australia, a country that has already lost so much, is that this sacred knowledge is preserved in a culturally appropriate and highly respectful environment. The archive is curated and documented to high standards.

Cultural governance of the Mulka Project is overseen by its cultural directors Wukun Wanambi and Randjupi Yunupingu and other senior members of the community. Wukun, is a leader of the Marrakulu clan, and what is critically important to the community, Wukun has the authority to liaise with other leaders in the Miwatj region and to handle very sensitive materials. Randjupi is a senior Gumatj woman with extensive knowledge of her culture, leading the archival process and its management.

Ishmael

Among the many other talented and knowledgeable staff working at the Mulka Project you have already met film director Ishmael Marika.

The archive manager, Araluen Maymuru, manages the archive for community access. Dhamarrarr Mununggurr is an important part of the Mulka project crew contributing as a cinematographer and editor. Vanessa Gambley's role as studio manager keeps everyone on track to meet the tight production schedules as work needs to be processed quickly because of the volume of material that needs to be recorded, processed and archived. Watjumi Mununggurr, an artist you will meet in another blog, contributes her talents as community liaison person and translator.

Watjumi

SUBJECT: Yolngu / Aboriginal culture / Mulka Project / Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Center / Keeping culture / Yirrkala / Eastern Arnhem Land