A rare performance by renowned Aboriginal dancers marked the start of one of Australia’s most important festivals of indigenous art. The unique dance of the Gurrir Gurrir people depicts events associated with a devastating tropical cyclone in 1974. The catastrophic event helped create one of Australia’s most highly regarded indigenous art movements.
The ceremony performed by the Gurrir Gurrir people remembers events surrounding Cyclone Tracy, which devastated Darwin in northern Australia. Aborigines saw the 1974 disaster as a warning from ancient spirits that their culture must not be allowed to wither and die in the face of European colonization.
The spirits were said to have imparted new songs and dances aimed at maintaining the diversity of indigenous culture and the Warmun artistic tradition was born.
It is based in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, home of the Gurrir Gurrir. Its artists are renowned for their use of natural ochre and pigments on canvas.
For the first time, Warmun rituals have been performed in eastern Australia, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The gallery over the next few days is hosting special events to showcase Aboriginal traditions.