WESTWIND: Djalu’s Legacy
An ageing tribal elder, a didgeridoo master and custodian of an ancient dreaming has no-one to inherit his sacred and esoteric traditional songlines. His son’s are consumed by the modern world; one blinded by the light, the other by depression. Djalu seeks a way forward. The answer comes from an unlikely place. He sets out to make a film, a film that will take him to the world and in an emotional climax find a willing custodian for the next generation.
Djalu is a valiant, cunning but ageing Aboriginal lawman. He is respected and feared in indigenous circles across ‘the top-end’. That’s because Djalu is a wise man. He is also the spiritual custodian of an ancient songline, that has preserved and enriched his tribal homeland, generation by generation since the birth of time. But now Djalu faces a dilemma. The precious songline that he ‘sings’ on his didgeridoo is in danger of disappearing as younger generations (including Djalu’s own sons), are distracted by new technologies, pop music and the ways of the West. Djalu will do anything to save what must be sung to ensure the health of his country and the future survival of his people. Without it, everything perishes.
Djalu is a ‘lightning’ totem. He must do something fast. His health is failing and his energy must now all be concentrated on this alone. He must find someone to inherit his legacy. Djalu’s plan shocks everyone. It will involve the making of a film, a trip to London hobnobbing with the glitterati of contemporary pop music. He will visit their world and they will visit his. Along the way Djalu steps outside the normal paradigms of indigenous story. He is the wise custodian but before our eyes also the international jetsetter and the flamboyant showman who charms his way across Europe.
The outcome of Djalu’s journey is equally surprising. When it seems that Djalu has lost the way or that he could even sell his precious legacy cheaply to outsiders, something happens - lightening strikes and Djalu proves himself as the wise old man that he always was.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
Westwind is the result of a determination by Yolngu Elders, lead by Djalu Gurruwiwi to tackle the problem of intergenerational cultural maintenance by engaging with the Balanda (non-Indigenous) world in new and transformative ways. As such the first audience for this film are Yolngu communities, especially young people, and in turn indigenous people more broadly.
Yolngu communities, like many Indigenous Australians face disadvantage in many areas of life including health, education and employment.
This film will have a very real impact on Yolngu culture and community, and on the region of Arnhem Land where some of Australia's most intact Indigenous cultures live on after 200 years of invasion and colonisation. It will also have an impact on the maintenance and practice of ancient rites and songlines, as a means to preserve and celebrate them.
Westwind celebrates cross cultural engagement, where art and music act as a shared medium to transcend historical and political divisions. It amplifies Djalu's message of reconciliation and unity through proper understanding of the traditional cultures of Australia, and their place in maintaining healthy communities. And so the second major audience will be non-indigenous Australians, who need to hear Djalu's message of inclusion and brotherhood.
The appetite for Australian Indigenous culture is perhaps greater internationally, away from the national and historical facts that mark Australia's Indigenous lives. This film is a chance for Indigenous people everywhere to learn and be inspired by Djalu's example, an Indigenous Leader in his people, who has shown how to honour and pass on traditional culture by understanding and becoming celebrated by global culture.
Westwind is in this way Djalu's work to connect his Yolngu people with the world in their own right, with new types of opportunities for connection and growth.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
The film will have immediate and longer term impacts:
- Facilitate 2 performances of Djalu and his clan's Barra Band at WomAdelaide 2015 on stage with Gotye
- Assist in the launch and distribution of Barra first album
- Create a feature documentary to be distributed by Madman Entertainment and Internationally to share Djalu's story and support his mission to share and preserve his culture
Mid & Long Term:
- Special Yolngu community screenings including, Mulka Media Arts Centre, Garma Festival
- Special Event screenings and performances by Barra and Djalu at key festivals, including, Adelaide Film Festival, 3 week screening at Perth Arts Festival
- Special screenings nationally and internationally in conjunction with artist talks and cultural teaching supported by Madman Distribution
- National and international educational sales to share this story with students everywhere
- Further perfoirmances leading to a sustainable musical enterprise
What is your education and outreach strategy?
The educational and outreach strategy will be based first in activities and events focussing on Yolngu communities in northern Arnhem Land. This honours Djalu's intentions for his work to help his people, especially the next generation to learn how their own culture can help them negotiate a better life in the confusing contemporary world.
Djalu's work also focuses on cross-cultural engagement with Balanda peoples, non-indigenous people from all over the world, and this will be the second part of the outreach strategy.
We are partnering with Yirrkala Arts Centre and the Garma festival to facilitate special events and outreach throughout the Yolngu community. We are also in contact with ARDS Radio in Arnhem Land and will extend the network of the Territory's arts bodies which can benefit from supporting this story.
At a national and international level our Executive Producers and distributor Madman Entertainment is working with the project to pan special event screenings and performances that will roll out in national cities and smaller communities, working with Djalu and Yolngu musicians and artists to amplify Djalu's cultural work.