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The Tiwi are the most intact Aboriginal in Australia. They undoubtedly have a passionately possessive attitude toward their land and culture, and they are steadfast in their determination to keep control over those elements, including ceremonies. Children are encouraged to learn their dances from an early age to perform in ceremonies.
If you want to understand what makes traditional Aboriginal Tiwi dance unique, you must look beyond the dancer’s body, immediate space, and musical accompaniment and consider family, gender conceptualization, the structure of the Tiwi language, and the island’s scenery of Tiwi.
History of Aboriginal Australian Tiwi Dance
Despite being under the impact of the Catholic Church since the arrival of missionaries in 1911, the Tiwi people of Bathurst and Melville Island have retained many features of their traditional culture, particularly their art and crafts and clan dances.
Even though Tiwi people still retain their traditional culture, there are some changes to their rituals, including the traditional Aboriginal Tiwi dance.
Because people were working, several ceremonies were held at lunchtime, on weekends, or on holidays. Many final funerary ceremonies were stalled because the pension check had been postponed, and there was insufficient money to pay the laborers “engaged” in doing certain ritual activities.
Certain ceremonies were not as intricate as they had been in the past. The Pukumani funerary ceremonies, particularly the Iloti or post-funeral ritual, which take place a year or so after the burial, have been shortened in some way. Therefore it will affect the dances too.
All Aboriginal ceremonies contained both old and new aspects. As part of the preliminary burial ceremonies, for example, each of the ceremonial leaders had to develop a sequence of songs and an accompanying dance that would later be performed for the Iloti.
The themes for dances occasionally had a direct relationship with the dead, were historical, or were about nature, but they were mostly about “novelty.” even Dances were no longer just for the dead in the 20th century. There have been dances about planes, houses, cars, electricity, beer, the Queen of England’s large house, and so on.
How is The Movement of the Australian Aboriginal Tiwi Dance?
In terms of aesthetics, one could say that many Tiwi people dance to focus on what it means to be Tiwi. Tiwi people, for example, frequently remark, “we will never give up our dancing,” or other similar statements when addressing their connection to their traditional culture, comparing dance to their way of life.
Tiwi people dance in a group. The dance movement varies according to the themes, but mostly they dance around some spears that are stuck on the ground. They rhythmically step on the ground together and clap their hands to the background music.
Australian Aboriginal Tiwi Dance Facts
Dance performances are held for a variety of purposes. Some dance occurs spontaneously at festivities to express emotions, while others occur at ceremonies in a more structured manner. Dancing is very significant in ceremonial gatherings. The dances done during the Pukumani ritual depict the deceased’s relationship.
There are narrative dances performed, which might depict historical events or everyday life. Many historic events, such as the bombing of Darwin during WWII, have been depicted in dance and music. Dancing is usually accompanied by singing, and new songs are always being written.
Each Tiwi people inherits their unique set of dreams and dances. The dreaming dance is from their father’s side, while the totem or clan dance is from their mother’s.
A Tiwi may not eat or kill their dream because it has a special bond with them that must be maintained and respected at all times. Yirrikipayi (Crocodile), Kitirika (Turtle), Jarrangini (Buffalo), Tarangini (Snake), Tartuwali (Shark), Kirilima (Orange-footed Scrub Fowl), and Yingwati (Sugarbag) are some of the totems.
The Tiwi customarily use natural earth colors known as ochres to paint their bodies for ceremonies. This mark-making practice serves as the foundation for current Tiwi art. Tiwi painting began as a transcription of ochre traces drawn on the dancers’ bodies during festivities.
Tiwi dances are unlike other Aboriginal dances in that they are open to new ideas, and their artists are always creating fresh ones. Nonetheless, they continue to practice their traditional dances. When visiting Australia, it is a good idea to try traditional Aboriginal Tiwi dance and its contemporary dances.