Bula'bula Arts regularly offers discounts on stock items for two weeks in early December. Please contact us for further information.

 bush apple

bush apple

OOPS. Your Flash player is missing or outdated.Click here to update your player so you can see this content.
You are here: Home arrow Our Art arrow Singing & Dancing
Singing & Dancing PDF Print E-mail



Bunggul c.1985
Photographer unknown 

Singing and Dancing
Singing and dancing are as important to Yolngu as food and water. As food and water provide nutritional nourishment, singing and dancing provide spiritual nourishment. Singing and dancing are often used to evoke the spirits of the land, and to ensure that flora, fauna and the elements all function accordingly. That is, that the rains come at the right time, that the animals spawn and give birth when they are supposed to, and that all known life continues to produce and reproduce according to proper interactions between the land, the waters and the elements. These are the “increase ceremonies” performed in the ‘dry’ season and they generally last for six months or so at a time.

Marradjirri Ceremony C. 1985
Photographer Unknown


Performed together, singing and dancing form a bunggul, or ceremony. Apart from “increase ceremonies”, there are many other types of bunggul. These ceremonies range from age-grading and initiation ceremonies, to those performed for a sick person to encourage wellness, or bring death with ease. There are also those ceremonies aptly described as “secret men’s business” where, such as with increase ceremonies, the power ancestors are called upon and their acts of creation are recreated by the dancers.

Marradjirri is an exchange ceremony, where a string bound pole is created. This ceremony is performed in celebration of the birth of a child, for example. After the pole has been sung and danced around, and the ceremony concluded, the string used to bind it is then used again, to form armbands or ceremonial dilly bags which may then further be used in mortuary ceremonies.

Bilma, Clap Sticks
© Bula'bula Arts 2004

 Hollow Log ceremonies are mortuary ceremonies whereby the bones of the deceased are crushed and placed into a hollow log. After much singing and dancing, they are left to rot and thereby return the decomposed bones and their wooden container, to the earth and its elements. The concept for The Aboriginal Memorial was derived from these ceremonies. Instruments used in ceremonies are the yidaki (didjeridu) and bilma (clapsticks) or boomerangs which are tapped together to beat out the rhythm. Each group of clans has its own rhythm, as well as its own designs which are painted on the bodies of the dancers. Whilst boomerangs are not made in Central Arnhem Land, (they must be traded from the south of this region) they too are painted with local sacred designs. Yidaki and bilma are produced for sale by artist members of Bula’bula Arts. See our On Line Gallery for available stock.

Black Wizard Band C. 1985
Photographer Unknown

 Contemporary Music

Blues guitar and the classic four-four beat of rock and roll are favoured by bands in the Ramingining region. Over the years groups such as The Black Wizard Band, The Martins, Top End Bara Band and Black Iron Band have resonated throughout the community long into the night, as a favorite pastime for young men. Singing of country and their homelands, the lyrics used by these bands are a modern way of celebrating the ancestral spirits as well of allowing expression of changing times, substance abuse and angst, just like any rock and roll band anywhere. Bobby Bununggurr is probably the best known musician from Ramingining and with his fusion band Waak Waak Jungi has performed the world over including The United States and Japan.

David Gulpilil
David Gulpilil dancing at the Virginia Fringe Festival, USA, 2003
© Margaret Smith, Kluge-Rhue Aboriginal Art Collection 2004

 Other Performance Art:

The well regarded actor and dancer David Gulpilil lives in Ramingining, though he spends much of his time on location or performing in the wider world. Discovered at around the age of twelve, Gulpilil first appeared in the film Walkabout in 1970 where he dazzled world audiences with his performance which included a dance of love for a young girl, his own age, but from a completely different (European) culture. In 2003 he performed a dance solo at the Virginia Fringe Festival in the USA.There are many types of singing and dancing performed in Ramingining and Bula’bula Arts supports all forms. Whether assisting with funds for funerals or as a facilitator for international contracts, the support of singing and dancing is one of the primary objects of this organization.