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Legacies of Indigenous Resistance

Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Yagan in Australian Indigenous Film, Theatre and Literature


Matteo Dutto

This book explores the ways in which Australian Indigenous filmmakers, performers and writers work within their Indigenous communities to tell the stories of early Indigenous resistance leaders who fought against British invaders and settlers, thus keeping their legacies alive and connected to community in the present. It offers the first comprehensive and trans-disciplinary analysis of how the stories of Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Yagan (Bidjigal, Bunuba and Noongar freedom fighters, respectively) have been retold in the past forty years across different media. Combining textual and historical analysis with original interviews with Indigenous cultural producers, it foregrounds the multimodal nature of Indigenous storytelling and the dynamic relationship of these stories to reclamations of sovereignty in the present. It adds a significant new chapter to the study of Indigenous history-making as political action, while modelling a new approach to stories of frontier resistance leaders and providing a greater understanding of how the decolonizing power of Indigenous screen, stage and text production connects past, present and future acts of resistance.

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Chapter 4 Performing resistance


Chapter 4

Performing resistance

DIBINARRA: Winyi wungurragi. Ngirri.inga mathawirrinyagu thangani Jandamarra.wu, Bunuba.nhi muwayi.

[Listen up, everybody. We are here to tell you a story about Jandamarra, from Bunuba Country.]

— Jandamarra, Steve Hawke and Bunuba Cultural Enterprise (2008–11)

Burrudi yatharra thirrili ngarri.

[We are still here and we are strong.]

— June Oscar, Director of Bunuba Cultural Enterprises

In January 2008, the play Jandamarra opened at the Perth Arts Festival. This was the first time a larger public could experience Jandamarra’s story through Bunuba eyes in a play that mixed the English, Bunuba, Kriol and Pidgin English languages. The performance was the result of a twenty-year-long collaboration between writer Steve Hawke and the Bunuba community of Fitzroy Crossing, with the rights to the play held by Bunuba Cultural Enterprise (BCE). Members of the community, including Danny Marr, Emmanuel Brown and Kevin Spratt, acted on the Perth stage alongside Indigenous and non-Indigenous actors from the Black Swan Theatre. The musical direction of Jandamarra was overseen by singer/songwriter Paul Kelly in collaboration with Bunuba elder George Brooking and the family of elder Adam Andrews, who originally composed the Yilimbirri Junba song and dance cycle which sits at the heart of the play (Brooking and the Yilimbirri Singers). Animations and lighting design were the result of the collaboration between Bunuba artist Kaylene Marr and the Black Swan technical staff and the translation process was guided by Bunuba linguists...

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