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The Creative Coast

The remote coastal community of Numbulwar, located on the west side of the gulf of Carpentaria, comes alive each year for the three-day Numburindi Festival. Since 2016, the festival has celebrated the art, music, dance and culture of the remote Arnhem Land community.

By Tierney Seccull

Home to the incredible Red Flag Dancers, world renowned Songman Ngulmiya Nundhirribala – also the festival’s artistic director – and award-winning band Yilila, Numbulwar is an area rich with culture. Numburindi presents the welcome occasion to celebrate the thriving creativity the region produces. 

The festival is supported by Artback NT, and CEO Shay Vigona Goudge says the event is a real highlight, regardless of its remoteness. 

“The much-anticipated three-day event is a special opportunity for a community as remote as Numbulwar to work toward performances that showcase the cultural history and traditions from the clan groups living in Numbulwar." 

These groups include the Ngalmi, Nundhirribala, Murrungun, Nunggarragalu and Mangurra Peoples, and the festival showcases their traditional cultural dances. 

In addition to the local love, Numbulwar welcomes special guests with open arms. Joining homegrown band Yilila are Sandridge Band and the Women’s Cultural Song Group from Borroloola, Saltwater Band from Elcho Island, and Mambali Band and Salt Lake Band from neighbouring Anindilyakwa on Groote Eylandt. 

Award-winning singer-songwriter Emily Wurramara, also from Anindilyakwa, joins the ranks, and Eastern Arrernte Band from the desert stop by as part of their Territory-wide Reggae Dancer tour, also supported by Artback NT. 

Numbulwar Numburindi Arts joins forces with local school children on a special mural project, and an exciting new addition in 2023 is the new chill out acoustic stage, dishing out wood fired Numburindi pizzas to the acoustic sounds of performing artists. 

The annual event is put together by a festival committee, made up of Numbulwar Elders and community members who work in cahoots with Artback NT. Amanda Nglami is Cultural Advisor to the festival, and says it’s a lovely, shared experience. 

“Sharing our culture with visitors and family from other remote communities, and passing on that traditional knowledge, is very important … We love this chance to celebrate our stories, language, dance and song.” 

This combination of the sights, sounds and culture of Numbulwar makes Numburindi Festival a genuinely special and immersive experience. If you’re keen for a rendezvous to Arnhem Land, apply for a visitor’s permit and plan your sleeping arrangements – camping spots for self-contained explorers are very, very limited. 

Numburindi Festival 

Photos: Benjamin Warlngundu Bayliss 

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