Jannawi Dance Clan

Instagram: @jannawidanceclan

Jannawi Dance Clan is an Aboriginal dance company that centres on Indigenous storytelling through dance and performance. Our name Jannawi means ‘with me, with you’ in Darug language. As a dance collective we celebrate the strength, resilience and stories of Aboriginal people in NSW. Community, identity and culture are strong values in our practice with a larger commitment to revitalise language and heighten the voices of Darug peoples and histories.

This week we will take you behind the scenes of our recent performance, skullduggery, commissioned by Artspace in response to Judy Watson’s work of the same name in the exhibition djillong dumularra, Carol McGregor and Judy Watson.

Performers:
Peta Strachan, Booroberongal clan Dharug nation
Jasmine Gulash, Kabi Kabi
Katie Leslie, Mandandanji, Gamilaroi
Yolanda Lowatta, Geidei
Dubs Yunupingu, Gumatj clan Arnhem Land and Booroberongal clan Dharug nation


skullduggery

Jannawi Dance Clan

Commissioned by Artspace, Sydney for djillong dumularra, Carol McGregor and Judy Watson, 16 January – 5 April, 2021

Performers:
Peta Strachan, Booroberongal clan Dharug nation
Jasmine Gulash, Kabi Kabi
Katie Leslie, Mandandanji, Gamilaroi
Yolanda Lowatta, Geidei
Dubs Yunupingu, Gumatj clan Arnhem Land and Booroberongal clan Dharug nation

Soundtrack: Amy Flannery
Nyapillilngu (Spirit Lady) by Rrwaun Maymuru and Nick Wales

Cinematographer: Nino Tamburri
Editor: Daniel Jameison

Developed at Murama Healing Space, Sydney Olympic Park

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.


07.04.2021

This performance directly responds to Judy Watson’s work of the same title, skullduggery, which exposes 1930s correspondence between Matron Agnes Kerr from Burketown Hospital in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum (now Wellcome Collection), London London trading Australian Aboriginal ancestral remains.

In the opening section we embody Matron Kerr and other women like her, who dressed and acted so dignified but were involved in one of the most inhumane practices – unearthing and trading ancestral Aboriginal remains.

It is everyone’s right to be buried and left to rest in peace. After hearing that mothers in northwest Queensland in the 1930s were involved in evil actions violating this right, we wanted to show through dance how disgusting and sinister the acts of these women were. Masked in their proper clothing, hats and gloves, underneath they were clinical and unfeeling. The women of this era were just as sinister as the men. Matron Kerr clearly states in her correspondence that she would ‘love to go skull hunting’ herself.

We wanted to depict how they too went out gravedigging and raiding Aboriginal sacred grave sites.

Judy Watson showed us an archival photo of Matron Kerr in the Volunteer Sisterhood. We couldn't believe it – they definitely didn't deserve that name. They played a huge role in enabling Aboriginal bones to be stolen and sent away from grieving families without regard or feeling.


08.04.2021

Here we become bones. Displaced, disconnected, ripped from mother earth, sent to a foreign land. Fractured clans all mixed up and put on display. Cold dark clinical spaces. Spirits trying to reconnect.

We mourn the loss, theft and disappearance of our ancestors and familial remains.

Video: Extract from Jannawi Dance Clan, skullduggery, 25 mins. Commissioned for djillong dumularra, Artspace, Sydney, 2021. 

Images: Jannawi Dance Clan, skullduggery, 2021, live performance. Commissioned by Artspace for djillong dumularra. Photo: Anna Kučera


09.04.2021


We are all connected…
Our creator,
Our land and all that comes from it,
Our flesh
Our bones and our spirit –
Are all connected
We are all one
Even in death –
We are all connected…

When remains of human people’s bones
Are stolen and removed
From their resting places
And dug out of the earth
There is certainly interference
With a spiritual process that should
Be rightfully given to the deceased person

A culturally practised process
With particular ways of managing
And maintaining various cultural values
And sustaining cultural practice and lore (l-o-r-e)
Much unlike colonisers law (l-a-w)…

What a spirit must feel –
After their bones or skull are stolen
From their land
Our bones and our spirit stay
Connected
Even in death, we are all connected.

What their people feel – who knew then
And know now – that helpless sadness,
Disconnect, disturbance, longing and
Loss…

Educating and truth telling
Australia’s history.
Ill treatment and lack of respect
For a dignified and proud people
And their way of being

Since colonisation
Reminding – telling – retelling
History here doesn’t start in 1788
It’s more than beyond a westernised concept…

Healing owners of a land
Helps heal the land itself
All connected.

- Katie Leslie (extract)

Video: Extract from Jannawi Dance Clan, skullduggery, 25 mins. Commissioned for djillong dumularra, Artspace, Sydney, 2021. 


10.04.2021

Some of our loved ones’ remains have returned. We have a ceremony to smoke and cleanse, to cry for our people, and to bury our loved ones back on Country. There are still so many clans waiting for the return of their own people’s remains.

We dance to comfort our families still waiting. We dance to evoke hope and faith that the rest of our people’s remains will return to Country and to their families. We dance to nurture, uplift and show lost spirits the light to journey into their dreaming and into their rightful place of rest in the afterlife.

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The soundtrack for skullduggery was created by Jannawi Dance Clan member Amy Flannery @amyflannery. The final sequence is performed to Nyapillilngu (Spirit Lady), a unique collaboration between Yolngu Songman Rrawun Maymuru and Sydney composer Nick Wales.

Nyapillilngu is the spirit lady that protects the passage between the Earth and Milky Way. She looks after this land and the spirit of this land from Earth to the Milky Way to ensure safe passage between both dimensions. Her totem is the Guwak, a type of scrub turkey who links her to the clans Managalili. Ritharrngu , Gupabuyngu and Gumatj and carries her messages to them. Rrawun Maymuru is a descendant of these clans.

Video: Extract from Jannawi Dance Clan, skullduggery, 25 mins. Commissioned for djillong dumularra, Artspace, Sydney, 2021. 



Past Actions

19 Apr - 25 Apr 2021

Guo Jian

12 Apr - 18 Apr 2021

Kenny Pittock

05 Apr - 11 Apr 2021

Jannawi Dance Clan

29 Mar - 04 Apr 2021

Gillian Kayrooz

22 Mar - 28 Mar 2021

Nathan Beard

15 Mar - 21 Mar 2021

Pilar Mata Dupont

08 Mar - 14 Mar 2021

Michael Cook

01 Mar - 07 Mar 2021

Seini F Taumoepeau

22 Feb - 28 Feb 2021

Dani Marti

15 Feb - 21 Feb 2021

Lill Colgan & Sab D'Souza

08 Feb - 14 Feb 2021

Chris Yee

01 Feb - 07 Feb 2021

Rochelle Haley

25 Jan - 31 Jan 2021

Karrabing Film Collective

18 Jan - 24 Jan 2021

Nici Cumpston

11 Jan - 17 Jan 2021

Johnathon World Peace Bush

07 Dec - 13 Dec 2020

Aphids

30 Nov - 06 Dec 2020

Raquel Ormella

23 Nov - 29 Nov 2020

Léuli Eshrāghi

16 Nov - 22 Nov 2020

Rolande Souliere

09 Nov - 15 Nov 2020

TV Moore

02 Nov - 08 Nov 2020

Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu

26 Oct - 01 Nov 2020

Ivey Wawn

19 Oct - 25 Oct 2020

Naomi Blacklock

12 Oct - 18 Oct 2020

Sancintya Mohini Simpson

05 Oct - 11 Oct 2020

Yhonnie Scarce

28 Sep - 04 Oct 2020

Ruha Fifita

21 Sep - 27 Sep 2020

Kaylene Whiskey

14 Sep - 20 Sep 2020

Adam Linder

07 Sep - 13 Sep 2020

Archie Barry

31 Aug - 06 Sep 2020

Min Wong

24 Aug - 30 Aug 2020

Hayley Millar-Baker

17 Aug - 23 Aug 2020

Erin Coates

10 Aug - 16 Aug 2020

Diego Bonetto

03 Aug - 09 Aug 2020

Tyza Stewart

27 Jul - 02 Aug 2020

Larissa Hjorth

20 Jul - 26 Jul 2020

Louise Zhang

13 Jul - 19 Jul 2020

Henri Papin (Meijers & Walsh)

06 Jul - 12 Jul 2020

Stelarc

29 Jun - 05 Jul 2020

Rainbow Chan

22 Jun - 28 Jun 2020

Jason Phu

15 Jun - 21 Jun 2020

Abdul Abdullah

08 Jun - 14 Jun 2020

Patricia Piccinini

01 Jun - 07 Jun 2020

Brook Andrew

25 May - 31 May 2020

Radha

18 May - 24 May 2020

James Tylor