Junba Dance Workshop at 2019 Mowanjum Festival

Each year in July the Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre hosts the Mowanjum Festival, sharing the vibrant, living culture of the Ngarinyin, Worrorra and Wunambal peoples.

The festival attracts thousands of visitors from across Australia, travelling to witness and take part in one of Western Australia’s largest cultural celebrations.

Performers from all ages participate in Junba or traditional dances, telling the stories of the Mowanjum people. The revival and performance of these dances are a significant moment of celebration for the local community, and deeply moving to the elders who thought they might never see those dances again.

Over the last few years the Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation has forged a relationship with the Mowanjum Festival community and after some discussion offered to fund a small pilot project for the 2019 festival. This is the first time the Foundation has run one of its programs outside of the Northern Territory.

The Junba Dance Workshop’s purpose was to involve the young members of the Mowanjum Dancers in the sharing of cultural information relating to Junba. The young dancers delivered a hands-on workshop detailing what is involved in the preparation of performance.

The workshop focused on body painting, what is used and what the different colours represent. The young dancers also talked about the traditional dress and the stories surrounding its use.

Basic dance moves were displayed and the audience was encouraged to try some of these moves themselves.

‘It was a highlight of the event, both as it allowed the audience to learn firsthand what Junba is about – what is involved in the preparations and what the traditional dress and body paint means, but also in the youth delivering their story. Junba is such a significant part of daily awareness- to share this so proudly was incredible to see’.

Phaedra Watts

Mowanjum Festival Coordinator