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Malandarri Festival

The remote community of Borroloola is located on the McArthur River, about a seven-hour drive form Katherine. Although the small historic town might be famous for its fishing, the community comes to life each year with the arts and cultural showcase that is Malandarri Festival.

By Tierney Seccull

The festival – formerly known as DanceSite – is presented by Artback NT, and a true calendar highlight for locals. It provides the community a chance to celebrate, with a strong emphasis on cultural tradition and transition to younger generations.

Malandarri is a celebration of traditional and contemporary dance and music of the four clan groups living in Borroloola – the Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Gurdanji and Mara peoples.

Marlene Timothy is the Malandarri Festival Director and Cultural Events Officer, and a senior Yanyuwa/Garrwa woman. She leads the Indigenous Traditional Dance Program community engagement in Borroloola and Robinson River, ensuring the festival and any related activity is community driven.

“The Malandarri Festival is very important to our community – it brings the four local clan groups and visiting communities together to share culture through traditional and contemporary music, song and dance, to keep culture strong,” she says.

Although it has been kept small over the past couple of years for the protection of the community, with a very local attendance, everyone’s invited to attend.

“People can come to experience two nights of cultural practice being revived through traditional performances by all age groups, starting from as young as five to older generations.”

The line-up for the 2022 festival features Numbulwar’s Devil Dancers, and Dave Spry performing with Roper Gulf musician Barnabus Timothy.

There’s also the premiere of Arrkula Yinbayarra (together we sing) – a very special project under the careful guidance of Dr Shellie Morris. This powerful cross-cultural collaboration sees the Tiwi Strong Women’s Choir join voices with the Borroloola Women’s Choir and is sure to be a magical experience.

Dr Shellie Morris has spent many years being invited to communities around the world, but her relationship with the Borroloola Songwomen is one of the most special, due equally to her journey of discovery and her familial ties to the region as a Yanyuwa woman.

"Working with my families has been one of the highlights of my life. It's been a long journey but a beautiful one and it will be ongoing, it's a lifetime of learning, sharing and elevating our voices," she says.

With market stalls, workshops, music, food and art, this year’s Malandarri Festival a must. Round up the crew and immerse yourself in the beauty of Borroloola.


Photo: Benjamin Warlngundu Bayliss

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