Like the boomerang, the didjeridu has become an iconic symbol
for a national Aboriginal identity in contemporary Australia.
There are many distinct tribes, languages and cultures in
Indigenous Australia, however, with only the Aboriginal groups
in northern Australia possessing the didjeridu as a part of
their ancestral cultural heritage. The map below shows the
didjeridu's recorded distribution (adapted from Moyle, A.
M., 1981, The Australian didjeridu: a late musical instrusion.
World Archaeology 12, 321-331).
Since European settlement of Australia, the didjeridu's distribution
has expanded into new areas. For instance, by 1960 anthropologists
had noted the didjeridu's spread to Roebourne in Western Australia,
and similarly, it had migrated to the Bloomfield area in Far
North Queensland sometime in the early 1800s (see map below).
The heartland of the didjeridu has long been accepted to be
Arnhem Land (see map below). Although there are Aboriginal
didjeridu players and makers in all parts of Australia, it
is in Arnhem Land where the instrument continues as a long
unbroken tradition that has been passed down from generation
to generation. Here, the didjeridu continues to serves as
a rhythmic accompaniment to voice and paired percussive sticks
(sometimes known as clapsticks) in the religious and ceremonial
life of the Aboriginal people.
In the very north-east of Arnhem Land, at a place called the
Gove Peninsula, live the Aboriginal members of Australia's
celebrated Yothu Yindi band. Yothu Yindi has played a major
role in promoting the didjeridu throughout the world through
its use of the yidaki in concerts as well as in studio recordings
and CDs released by the band.
Examples of didjeridus collected from the
Gove Peninsula area and other parts of Arnhem Land and the
Northern Territory can be found in the Exhibitions section.