How to experience Aboriginal culture in the Northern Territory
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The indigenous people of Australia’s Northern Territory have lived in its landscapes for over 50,000 years, creating a rich tapestry of customs, languages and traditions that span across the region.With over 40 different indigenous language groups currently residing in the Northern Territory, a myriad of cultural practices including music and dance, rock art and traditional cuisine are on offer for intrepid explorers. Immerse yourself in the rich cultural history and practices of one of the world’s oldest living groups; from the Yolngu in Arnhem Land to the Arrernte in Central Australia. Music and Dance The festival period in the Northern Territory epitomises Aboriginal culture; showing off some of the most talented traditional dancers and musical performers in the world.
Traditional Aboriginal music is often accompanied by the sounds of the didgeridoo and the slow clap of sticks from the bush, so get ready to experience the soothing tones of Australia’s most famous musical instrument in conjunction with beautiful storytelling performances across festivals this summer. The traditional tribal beat gives a platform for traditional dancing, which commonly tells the tale in interpretive movements, sometimes mimicking kangaroos, birds or spear hunting.Seek out the Mahbili Festival in Jabiru to celebrate the traditional and contemporary aspects of Kakadu culture and witness a piece of cultural history in music and dance performances. The family-orientated festival runs from midday to midnight on Saturday 26th August. If you’re looking something for truly inspiring, experience a clash of the classic and the contemporary at the annual Yirrkala Yarrapay Music & Dance Festival. More of a cultural movement than a festival, the celebrations commemorate the intimate connection of the land, the story and the culture of the Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land in the last weekend of June. Aboriginal Art Art comes in many forms, but none more spectacular than the traditional methods of the Aboriginal groups in the Northern Territory. While specific region by region, Aboriginal Australian art usually takes inspiration from the surroundings and plays on a cherished connection to the land and traditional musical instruments.
Hand-woven baskets, woodcarvings and jewellery are also popular Aboriginal art forms to look out for in the Northern Territory, and are displayed throughout galleries and art centres in both Darwin and Alice Springs. See intricate dot paintings that draw on a mixture of Aboriginal spiritual influences and old Western traditions hung proudly from gallery walls, and book in advance for a chance to chat to their creators.
Image credit: ExperienceOz
If you’re looking to grab a few souvenirs from your trip, head to the Aboriginal Bush Traders, situated in historic Lyons Cottage on Darwin’s Esplanade. Blending authentic Indigenous artworks, perfectly hand-crafted gifts and trinkets and a modern café, Bush Traders has become one of Darwin’s must-visit sites over the last few years. Not only do they offer a beautiful collection of gifts to please your friends and family, they also support their own by supporting local Indigenous artists and businesses.
Want to try your hand at creating your own art? At the Maruku Arts centre (found within the Ayers Rock Resort), you can take a class in traditional dot painting, guided by a local Anangu artist. It's the perfect way to create something unique and special, and learn about an ancient culture directly from the source. The Anangu people have passed their art down through the generations for thousand of years.
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