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Beautiful Borroloola

Back in 2013, in the small town of Borroloola located on the McArthur River, locals and visitors gathered to celebrate traditional and contemporary dance, music and cultural practices from the four Borroloola clan groups.

By Tierney Seccull

In the years since, the Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Gurdanji and Mara peoples have welcomed guests back to Country to take a peek into their home and culture. This month, the beautiful, unique and intimate two-day event that is Malandarri Festival makes a sweet return.

Festival Director Marlene Timothy is a local Yanyuwa/Garrwa woman who works for Artback NT and Waralungku Arts Centre, and also represents her region as a councillor with Roper Gulf Regional Council. This year marks her 10th year at the helm.

“Looking back since the festival started, I realise that it has strengthened me in lots of ways through directing the event,” she says.

“Malandarri Festival is such a special event. It is a place where we come together to share our culture through the importance of traditional dancing, singing and storytelling, whether it's traditional or contemporary, we want to keep our culture strong.”

In addition to traditional dance and music, there are some exciting new offerings for the 2023 event. Caiti Baker hits the stage to perform, and also runs workshops for young women in the lead up to the festival on music development, song writing and stage presence.

A special debut collaboration sees the poetry of Margaret Allwood put to music by producer James Mangohig. Allwood started penning poems when she moved from her home Country to New South Wales where she raised her family, and is now back on home soil, open to sharing her poetry in this unique way.

Perhaps one of the biggest additions this year is the introduction of a big screen, especially exciting as it is used to screen Duwarra Wujara (Two Young Men). This gorgeous animation features the history, traditional customs and songs from the Roper Gulf region, the project developed by anthropologist and long-term friend John Bradley in cahoots with Borroloola Community.

This family-friendly, alcohol-free event also includes market stalls, food and art, and a special performance from The Borroloola Women's Cultural Song Group. Embark on a special journey to the gulf, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Borroloola.

Malandarri Festival

Thumbnail & inset: Women dancers Rachael McDinny and Eunice Isaac, Malandarri Festival 2022.
Photos: Benjamin Warlngundu Ellis Bayliss

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