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Yawulyu women ceremonies, Lajamanu, 1984 (B/W photos) / Kajirri / Barbara Glowczewski / jilimi, Lajamanu, Tanami Desert, Central Australia

Women’s Dancing


Several Dreamings may be celebrated at the same time, especially if their travel paths have crossed at the same site. Different sequences of dancing succeed one another, in which the custodial functions are reversed. In principle women dance a Dreaming as owners, and they play the role of choreographers as kurdungurlu managers. They then surround the dancers, reminding them with many gestures and shouted orders of the path they have to follow on the dancing ground. They are the ones who place the painted boards or other ritual objects there and give them to the dancers at the right moment. When the dance is accompanied by songs, some kurdungurlu remain seated, and sing with the owners who do not dance.


On the ground, the tracks of the naked feet of the dancers, who usually move in a straight line, jumping with their legs straight and slightly apart, form meander lines superimposed on one another. They thus print into the sand, in a cloud of red dust, the geography of one or several ancestral Dreaming tracks. A good yawulyu ritual should raise a lot of dust. For some Dreamings, such as that of the Acacia Seed, a dancer picks up a handful of sand which she puts in a ritual dish carried under her arm, and, as she jumps, she scatters this sand along her way. The same dish may be held with both hands, lifted to the sky, passed from one dancer to another and put on the ground, the unpainted concave side facing down.


Sometimes women move forward on their knees, close up against one other, and form a circle around a dish, a kuturu stick or the boards, on which the design is always turned towards the sky. It is believed that they are then catching the Kurrruwarri concentrated in their painted bodies and these objects. With their palms open towards the sky, and shaken in a staccato manner, they lift the Kuruwarri to spread them on the earth. Then, their palms turned towards the earth, singing and beating the same rhythm, they send them back underground.


Sometimes two women make a more figurative pantomime of a specific ancestral event. Often the managers perform this, rather than the owners of the Dreaming. It usually happens on Yawulyu night. All dancing terminates when the boards are deposited in front of the spectators or the stick planted in the ground, and a handful of sand is thrown to close the ritual by interrupting the link with the Jukurrpa space-time.


When another yawulyu is not planned for the next day, one or two women dance and take away the stick. The dances rarely last more than half an hour, except in the nocturnal vigils or initiation cycles. As soon as the dancing is finished, the managers hide the objects. Before every ritual, the designs painted on the objects during the previous ritual are erased. Then the objects are painted again, with the same or different designs. The painted women get dressed and usually sleep still painted. If, during a new ritual, traces of the old designs persist, they wash them away before they are repainted.


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Archives de chercheurs: Barbara Glowczewski [Collection(s) 28]
Yawulyu women ceremonies, Lajamanu, 1984 (B/W photos) [Set(s) 723]
Meta data
Object(s) ID 72831
Permanent URI
Author(s)Barbara Glowczewski
Locationjilimi, Lajamanu, Tanami Desert, Central Australia
Coordinateslat -35.27 / long 149.08

Copyright Barbara Glowczewski
Rank 1 / 86
Filesize 598 Kb | 2500 x 1631 | 8 bits | image/jpeg
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Quote this document Glowczewski, Barbara 1984 [accessed: 2021/5/9]. "Kajirri" (Object Id: 72831). In Yawulyu women ceremonies, Lajamanu, 1984 (B/W photos). ODSAS:
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