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Roper River Didgeridoos

The Roper River region in south-west Arnhem Land has Numbulwar and Ngukurr as its main Aboriginal settlements, with a number of smaller satellite communities or 'outstations' serviced by these two main settlements. The people of this region are known as the Nunggubuyu (derived from nunn, meaning person, and wubuy, the language spoken by the people).

The social organisation, structure and composition of the Nunggubuyu are extremely complex, partly a result of the cultural admixture in the area. Nonetheless, it is generally accepted that there are about 8 clan groups: Mangurra, Murrungun, Nundhirribala, Wurramara, Ngalmi, Nunggarrgarlu, Nunggumajbarr, and Numamurdirdi. These clans are arranged into two moieties Mandirrija (equivalent to the Yolngu Yirritja moiety) and Mandhayung (equivalent to the Yolngu Dhuwa moiety).

The Nunggubuyu have close ties to the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land and the Wanindiljaugwa of Groote Eylandt. The use of the didgeridoo in the Roper River region is not well documented though there is evidence that in more traditional times some clans used the didgeridoo and some didn't.


Reference: rpr1 NT Comments:

An interesting instrument that has been painted twice. The newer painting is of fish and snakes typical of the art style of the Roper River region in the 1980s and 1990s.

Maker: unknown
Clan: unknown
Area: Roper River
Key: D fundamental
Length: 122 cm
Material: Hardwood
Decoration: acrylic
Collection date: late 1980s

Reference: rpr2 NT Comments:

Djambu Barra Barra is a prolific and highly acclaimed artist who "...stands as a unique and powerful voice, at once novel and ancient" according to one leading art commentator. Djambu works in the medium of bark and canvas, and this didgeridoo would be only a small number that he has made and painted. This instrument is highly responsive and suitable for the Nunhdhirribala style.

Maker: Djambu Barra Barra
Clan: Wagilak
Area: Ngukurr
Key: G fundamental, G overtone
Length: 121 cm
Material: Bloodwood
Decoration: acrylic
Collection date: 1990s

Reference: rpr3 NT Comments:

Two nearly identical instruments from the Walker River community, about 100 km north of Numbulwar. The top didgeridoo, collected in the 1970s, is the older of the two. Both instruments play in the same fundamental and overtone keys.

Maker: unknown
Clan: unknown
Area: Walker River
Key: D fundamental, F# overtone
Length: 139 cm & 134 cm
Material: Hardwood
Decoration: ochre
Collection date: 1970s & 1990s

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