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North-east Arnhem Land Didgeridoos

North-east Arnhem Land is the home of the Yolngu people. The Aboriginal communities of Yirrkala, Gapuwiyak and Galiwin'ku are the main settlements that service this region. Dozens of smaller satellite communities called outstations or homelands have been established away from the main settlements since the 1970s, in what was called the Homeland Movement.

In north-east Arnhem Land the didgeridoo, commonly known as the yidaki, finds it greatest artistic expression. In this region, the rhythms, techniques and compositions endemic to the people are of outstanding musical interest. Characteristic features in the playing styles of north-east Arnhem Land include sharp tongued accents, syncopated overtone rhythms, and variable time metering.

The presence of secret non-public versions of the didgeridoo in north-east Arnhem Land - in addition to the didgeridoo's incorporation into the cosmological beliefs of the Yolngu people - suggests a likely 'birthplace' for the instrument. Indeed, there are Yolngu accounts of the origin of the didgeridoo set in north-east Arnhem Land.

Didgeridoos from north-east Arnhem Land are instruments of the highest cultural integrity. The use of the didgeridoo in this part of Australia continues as an unbroken tradition since time immemorial. In recent times, the Yothu Yindi band and Djalu Gurruwiwi - Mr Didgeridoo himself - has done much to popularise the yidaki around the world.

Yidaki are commonly made in north-east Arnhem Land from gadayka - Eucalyptus tetradonta or Stringybark, gungurru - Eucalyptus miniata or Woolybutt, and badawili - Eucalyptus feruginea or Rusty Bloodwood.


Reference: neal1 NT Comments:

A good hardwood specimen with fine incised clan design.

Maker: unknown
Clan: Rirratjingu?
Area: Yirrkala
Key: F fundamental, G# overtone
Length: 120 cm
Material: Hardwood
Decoration: ochre, incised
Collection date: 1960s

Reference: neal2 NT Comments:

An important didgeridoo belonging to the Yirritja moiety known as Dhadalal. The body adorned with hanging pendant cords consisting of lindirritj (Rainbow Lorikeet) feathers, bush twine, pointed bone tips, 'sugarbag' wax and ochre.

Maker: unknown
Clan: Dhalwangu
Area: Galiwin'ku
Key: F fundamental, G# overtone
Length: 124 cm
Material: Hardwood
Decoration: ochre
Collection date: late 1970s

Reference: neal3 NT Comments:

A fine yirdaki used in dhapi' (initiation) and bapurru (funeral) ceremonies in Arnhem Land. This instrument has been repainted a number of time.

Maker: Timothy Litalita
Clan: Datiwuy
Area: Galiwin'ku
Key: F fundamental, F# overtone
Length: 138 cm
Material: Hardwood
Decoration: ochre
Collection date: 1990s

Reference: neal4 NT Comments:

A fine yirdaki with an unusual carved mid-section 'waist'. Fast playing instrument with good compression.

Maker: Djakapurra Munyarryun
Clan: Wangurri
Area: Dhalinybuy
Key: F# fundamental, G overtone
Length: 135 cm
Material: Hardwood
Decoration: ochre
Collection date: 1990s

Reference: neal5 NT Comments:

A fine yirdaki made, painted and used by Djalu Gurruwiwi, famed didgeridoo craftsman.

Maker: Djalu Gurruwiwi
Clan: Galpu
Area: Gunyangara'
Key: E fundamental, F# overtone
Length: 145 cm
Material: Hardwood
Decoration: synthetic paints
Collection date: 1999

Reference: neal6 NT Comments:

A wonderfully decorated yidaki with ochre rendered designs typical of Mithinarri's work on bark. The painting is a depiction of Dhonyin the file snake.

Maker: Mithinarri Gurruwiwi (1929-1976)
Clan: Galpu
Area: Yirrkala
Key: D fundamental, G overtone
Length: 136 cm
Material: Hardwood
Decoration: ochre
Collection date: early 1970s

Reference: neal7 NT Comments:

A fine yirdaki decorated with relief carving of gudurrku (brolga). Datjirri is a specialist practioneer of this technique of which he excels.

Maker: Datjirri Wunungmurra
Clan: Dhalwangu
Area: Gunyangara'
Key: F# fundamental, G# overtone
Length: 127 cm
Material: Hardwood
Decoration: acrylic, relief carving
Collection date: late 1990s

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