‘Our songs are about people. We hear stories. We put the story into songs. Events, celebrations, funerals, so that singing and dancing about everything is how we maintain our culture. We don’t write things down like you mob. Our songs are our history books’
Music forms an integral part of all aspects of life on the Tiwi islands. The Tiwi people sing songs about the land which have been handed down through the generations. They sing about many aspects of their lives, including hunting, cooking, family, celebrations, ceremonies, animals, and plants.
Ngarukuruwala, which means ‘we sing songs’, is a choir drawn from the Wangatunga Strong Women's Group at Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island. However, the women don't really see themselves as a choir; they don't really rehearse or perform, but just come together to sing. The women share a strong connection through the songs they know, create and sing together almost every day. They perform at ceremonial and social gatherings, with their songs reflecting important community events and telling traditional stories about land and heritage. They not only perform at local events such as the Tiwi AFL Grand Final, but have also performed at the Sydney Opera House, NT Parliament House and the Darwin and Sydney Festivals. Being part of the Wangatunga Strong Women's Group gives the women a sense of pride, identity and belonging. Young women are encouraged to join the group to learn the songs and about the old language and culture.
Ngarukuruwala CDs can be purchased here, with the proceeds helping to support the women in future projects.