World Making

The interconnection between Tiwi song culture and death

This project, led by SEI research fellow Dr Genevieve Campbell explores the interconnectivity of cultural loss and mortality, and aims to explore the fragility of oral knowledge traditions, particularly those passed through song in Tiwi cultures.

The Tiwi community experiences a relatively high mortality rate, burdening not only the community, but also the rich oral tradition of songs which are increasingly at risk of being lost before older generations have the chance to pass them on. Song is an essential part of Tiwi culture and spirituality, and many of these songs are themselves essential in guiding and facilitating rituals surrounding the mourning process.

This project begins by transcribing, documenting and collecting archival recordings of a series of Moonfish dreaming songs as sung by past custodians and (recently deceased) elder Yikliya Tipiloura. Through workshops with Tiwi collaborators we hope to honour Mr Tipiloura’s legacy by facilitating the creation of a new body of work using archival records, visual imagery and traditional design alongside new vocal and instrumental work by young Tiwi singers. The project will culminate in 2021 with a series of public performance in the Tiwi islands, and in Sydney, by the young Tiwi performers.