2007 Milpirri - Kurdiji


Lajamanu, Northern Territory

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Warlpiri Elders and residents of Lajamanu presented MILPIRRI, celebrating the Warlpiri Kurdiji Ceremony; a young man’s initiation ceremony, a story of Mothers and Sons told in segments that feature both traditional and contemporary elements.

Interestingly, all the major symbols featured in the Australian Coat of Arms also feature in the Warlpiri Kurdiji Ceremony. The Lajamanu Warlpiri hope that through sharing their sacred story and linking it to the elements featured in the Australian Coat of Arms, members of the Australian mainstream will be stimulated to acknowledge that the Warlpiri Nation shares with them common, meaningful symbols. The Warlpiri long to be understood by, and want to understand, the Australian mainstream.  By sharing this central Warlpiri ceremony, through a set of symbols common to both, perhaps the first steps along that road can be taken.



Spoken introduction in both Warlpiri and English

Winpa  (Lightning Dance)

(Jangala Jampijinpa Nangala Namipjinpa - blue)
The Lightning man throws Lightning at the Milpirri storm cloud to make the rain fall down

Warlu (Fire)

(Japanangka/Japangardi/Napanangka/Napangardi - Green Group)
When Warlpiri light fires they burn off the useless overgrowth which makes room for fresh, new growth. This brings back the animals and uncovers the root crops.  So the young boy is purged of his childish ways and his dependence upon his mother and is given room to take on the teachings of the men of the tribe. 

Men supported by Women perform a Warlu (Fire) dance. When the fire is thrown in the sky it represents a new day, a new beginning.

Youth dancers interpret the theme highlighting the young Japanangkas and Japangardis learning new things.

Coat of Arms

The symbols in the Australian Coat of Arms match the powerful symbols from the Kurdiji Ceremony - A shield, the Kangaroo, the emu, the Southern Cross, and leafy poles.

Yankirri (Emu)

(Jangala/Jampijinpa/Nangala/Nampijinpa - Blue Group)

The female emu lays her eggs and walks away from the chicks.  It is the male emu who teaches the young emus how to survive in the harsh desert.  Building on the survival skills taught by mothers, the young boy is exhorted to submit to the teachings of his fathers, uncles and grandfathers about Warlpiri Law.

Men and Women perform a Yankirri (Emu) dance from the Jardiwanpa ceremony.

Youth dancers use the emu theme of teaching, making sure they know what you are teaching and passing on the information clearly.

Wampana (Spectacled Hare Wallaby)

(Jakamarra/Jupurrurla/Nakamarra/Napurrurla  - Red Group)

To the Warlpiri, a kangaroo is symbolic of unchanging law.  Warlpiri law, unlike mainstream law, never changes; it has always been the same from the beginning and this law is recorded on wooden banners.  The young boy begins his journey in learning his rich heritage of “ngurra-kurlu” (the inter-relationship between Land, Law, Language, Ceremony and Kinship).

Men and Women perform a Wampana (Spectacled Hare Wallaby) dance.

Youth Dancers show the importance of learning law, as a way that provides a map into the future.

Witi (Leafy Poles)

(Japaljarri/Jungarrayi/Napaljarri/Nungarrayi - Yellow Group)

The young boy stands before two leafy poles and is given a choice, each pole representing a different life direction.  Will he follow the ways of the Warlpiri (the ancient ngurra-kurlu)? Or will he follow some other way and depart from his heritage?

Men perform a Witi (leafy pole) dance

Young boys dance about having many choices and having to choose the right one. They also learn that if they go wrong, they can go back and fix it up. They learn to stand tall and strong like a tree.

Milpirri (Rainstorm Cloud)

(Jangala/Jampijinpa/Nangala/Nampijinpa - Blue Group)

In the desert, when the hot and cold air merges, a Milpirri storm cloud forms, creating rain. The Milpirri is something we move towards with hope and anticipation of growth and new life.

Lightning Solo Dance from the Milpirri Jukurrpa (Rainstorm Dreaming). He throws lightning at the Milpirri cloud making it open up so the rain can run.

Desert People

Kurdiji is a ceremony for the whole Warlpiri Nation, with a message for the whole of Australia.  This is backed by the North Tanami Band song Desert People, which has become a Warlpiri anthem.

Danced to a new mix of Desert People, By the North Tanami Band, we see the young and the old coming together, men and women, young males and females, in a celebration of Warlpiri people – “We are the desert people, we are the Warlpiri tribe”

Warluwariji (Mothers’ Exhortation)

Mothers, Grandmothers, Aunties, uninitiated boys

The mothers give the young boys their final exhortation: “Walk in the steps of your older brother and he will lead you in the path of your father.  Do not put your hand carelessly down a goanna hole; it may look like good food, but really it may be a snake or a scorpion.”  Keep on the straight and narrow and don’t deviate.

Wulparri (Milky Way) - Wantarri-Tarri (Earth Trading Route, Sky Gift Road)

(Japaljarri/Jungarrayi/Napaljarri/Nungarrayi/Japangardi/Japanangka/Napangardi/Napanagka - Yellow and Green Group)

Reminder to pass on deep learning. The men acknowledge the role that the young boys’ mothers have played earlier in their life, and the mothers acknowledge the role that the men are about to play by teaching them the stories embedded in the stars.

Men and Women perform a traditional milky way dance.

The Lighting of the Yarrirdi-Yarrirdi (Burning Leafy Pole) and Ngurra-kurlu (at home in yourself) Symbol

A boy has begun the journey of becoming a man who is a “Kurdiji” (shield) protecting his heritage: his Land, his Law, his Language, his Ceremony and his Family (Kinship system): his “Ngurra-kurlu.”

Lighting of the Yarrirdi-Yarrirdi and Ngurra-kurlu. A fire sculpture representing the Kurdiji (Shield) is lit, followed by 20 Yarradarrudi poles. The entire space is burning. By morning, the remaining ash reminds us that it is finished … for now.

Creative Personnel

Creative Director: Steve Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick
Artistic Co-Directors: Tim (Jampijinpa) Newth and David (Japaljarri) McMicken
Lajamanu Elders: Jerry Jangala Patrick, Teddy Jupurrula Morrison, Myra Nungarrayi Herbert, Gladys Napangardi Tasman, Molly Napurrula Tasman, Rosie Napurrula Tasman
Youth Choreography: Nick (Japanangka) Power and Jenelle (Nakamarra) Saunders
Youth Dance Leader: Caleb Japanangka Patrick

Soundtrack Production: Matthew Cunliffe
Soundtrack Vocals: North Tanami Band, Jerry Jangala Patrick, Teddy Jupurrula Morrison, Myra Nungarrayi Herbert, Gladys Napangardi Tasman, Molly Napurrula Tasman, Rosie Napurrula Tasman
Voiceovers: Steve Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick and Jessica Nangala Patrick

Banner Design Owners: Joe Japanangka James, Jerry Jangala Patrick, Teddy Jupurrurla Morrison, Myra Nungarrayi Herbert, Gladys Napangardi Tasman, Tim Jupurrurla Kennedy, Peter Japanangka Dixon, Lindsay Jungarrayi Herbert, Leslie Jampijinpa Robertson, Norman Jampijinpa Kelly, Dick Japaljarri Raymond, Jacko Jakamarra Gordon and Thomas Jangala Sampson

Production and Promotion Personnel

Lighting / Technical Director: Matthew James
Sound Operator / Technical Assistant: Daniel Lade
Space Preparation: Lajamanu Council and CDEP workers
Poster Image and Design: Mark Marcelis
Photo Documentation: Peter Eve
DVD Documentation: Cutting Edge
Editing: Todd Williams and Katie Saunders
Camera Man: Ian Redfearn
Project Management: Fiona Carter, (Lance) Alan Box, Miles Holmes, Suzanne Fermanis, Steve Patrick, David McMicken, Tim Newth and Lajamanu Traditional Custodians
Admin Assistant: Skye Raabe


Japangardi, Japanangka, Napangardi and Napanangka (Green Group)

Men Dancers: Tristan Japanangka Tasman, Maxwell Japanangka Tasman, Stephen Japanangka Dixon, Dylan Japanangka Gordon, Callum Japanangka Scobie, Aston Japanangka Blacksmith, Scott Japangardi Dixon, Warrick Japangardi Miller, Dylan Japangardi Miller, Anton Japangardi James, Rhys Japangardi Carlton, Vincent Japangardi Dixon

Women Dancers: Kathy Napanangka Wardle, Liddy Napanangka Walker*, Biddy Napangardi Raymond, Gladys Napangardi Tasman, Coral Napangardi Gallagher*, Rene Napangardi Dixon, Lynette Napangardi Tasman, Denise Napangardi Tasman, Judy Napangardi Martin, Gloria Napangardi Dixon, Anita Napangardi Johnson, Tamara Napangardi Johnson, Ursula Napangardi Marks, Gracie Napangardi Johnson*

Singers: Joe Japanangka James, Peter Japanangka Dixon, Martin Japanangka Johnson, Daicos Japangardi Tasman, Alan Japangardi Tasman
Male Youth Dancers: Caleb Japanangka Patrick, Gerard Japanangka Scobie, Sean Japanangka Robbo, Nicky Japanangka James, Steven Japangardi Daniels

Female Youth Dancers: Sophia Napanangka Poulson, Kay Marie Napanangka Dixon, Ainsley Napanangka Moketarinja, Katelyn Napanangka Moketarinja, Remeika Napangardi Patterson, Macala Napangardi Donnelly, Jaynita Napangardi Gordon, Deandra Napanangka Burns

Jangala, Jampijinpa, Nangala and Nampijinpa (Blue Group)

Men Dancers: Jerry Jangala, Dion Jangala Kelly, Edmond Jangala Kelly, Jasper Jangala Burns, Conrad Jangala Burns, Marty Jangala Burns, Anthony Jangala Burns, Liam Jangala Patrick, Francis Jangala Lovegrove, Dion Jangala Anderson, Norbert Jampijinpa Patrick, Francis Jampijinpa Patrick, Greg Jampijinpa Jigili, Jameson (Jampijinpa) Box, Ashley Jampijinpa Watson, Virgil Jampijinpa Robertson, Felix Jampijinpa Jigili, Ricky Jampijinpa Sampson

Women Dancers: Angela Nangala Kelly, Pamela Nangala Sampson*, Geraldine Nangala Gallagher, Rosie Nangala Fleming*, Mary Nangala*, Nellie Nangala Wayne*, Joelene Nangala Patrick, Judy Nampijinpa Granites*, Annette Nampijinpa Patrick, Liddy Nampijinpa Miller, Janelle Nampijinpa Burns, Jillian Nampijinpa King

Singers: Michael Jangala Watson*, Toby Jangala Martin, Thomas Jangala Sampson, Peter Jangala Raymond, Billy Jampijinpa Bunter, Leslie Jampijinpa Robertson, Norman Jampijinpa Kelly

Male Youth Dancers: Joe Jangala Foster, Michaelis Jangala Sampson, Howard Jangala Sampson, Michael (Jampijinpa) Box, Aiden Jampijinpa Kelly, Desmond Jampijinpa Robertson, Kealyn Jampijinpa Kelly, Todd Jampijinpa Hector, Shannon Jampijinpa Rose

Female Youth Dancers: Reniece Nangala Poulson, Felicity Nangala Robertson, Eva Nangala Ross, Lavina Nangala Sampson, Trixie Nangala Patrick, Wakukuta Nangala Patrick, Shemira Nampijinpa Kelly, Shekira Nampijinpa Robertson, Richache Nampijinpa Jigili, Latoya Nampijinpa Hector, Kiara-xena Nampijinpa Rose

Jupurrula, Jakamarra, Napurrula and Nakamarra (Red Group)

Men Dancers: Shane Jupurrula White, Titus Jupurrula White, Lorenzo Jupurrula Lewis, Adam Jupurrula Cook, Matthew Jupurrula Walker, Lincoln Jupurrula Cook, Lyndon Jupurrula Gordon, Sebastian Jakamarra Simon

Women Dancers: Molly Napurrula Tasman, Rosie Napurrula Tasman, Vivienne Napurrura James, Mabel Napurrula Samuel, Maisie Napurrurla Wayne, Mercia Napurrula Lewis, Mary K Nakamarra Lewis, Della Nakamarra Lewis, Doris Nakamarra Lewis, Mavis Nakamarra Lewis, Beryl Nakamarra Barnes, Belinda Nakamarra Baker, Laura Nakamarra Doolan, Pam Nakamarra Malden*, Lisa Nakamarra Morrison, Cecily Nakamarra James, Katrina Nakamarra Andrews

Singers: Teddy Jupurrula Morrison: Tim Jupurrula Kennedy, Henry Jakamarra Cook

Male Youth Dancers: Kieran Jupurrula Dixon, Mike Jupurrula Patterson, Jared Jakamarra Ross, Yami Jakamarra Simon

Female Youth Dancers: Tina Napurrula Patterson, Kirsty Anne Napurrula Simon, Sinarta Napurrula Ross, Leilani Napurrula Walker, Montana Napurrula Matthews, Kira-lee Napurrula Rose, Natalie Napurrula Ross, Ashleigh Napurrula Dixon, Charmaine Napurrula Brown, Antasia Nakamarra Simon, Leonie Nakamarra Patterson, Megan Nakamarra Patterson, Revona Nakamarra Cook

Japaljarri, Jungarrayi, Napaljarri and Nungarrayi (Yellow Group)

Men Dancers: Roger Japaljarri Jurrah, Eddie Japaljarri Ronson, Brendon Jungarrayi Payton, Braedon Jungarrayi Hogan, Rohan Jungarrayi George, Bevan Jungarrayi Rose, Tyson Jungarrayi Rose, Rowan Jungarrayi Jurrah

Women Dancers: Alice Napaljarri Kelly, Judy Napaljarri Walker, Sonya Napaljarri Cooke, Robyn Napaljarri Payton, Louise Napaljarri Payton, Celesta Napaljarri Penn, Margaret Napaljarri Jigili, Dulice Napaljarri Herbert, Myra Nungarrayi Patrick, Margaret Nungarrayi Martin, Lily Nungarrayi Hargraves, Betty Nungarrayi Long, Beth Nungarrayi Barnes, Elma Nungarrayi Mc Donald, Lorraine Nungarrayi Mc Donald, Leonie Nungarrayi Rose, Gail Nungarrayi Hector, Francine Nungarrayi Rose

Singers: Dick Japaljarri Raymond, Lindsay Jungarrayi Herbert

Male Youth Dancers: Dean –Angelo Japaljarri Jigili, Ananias Japaljarri Tasman, Angelo Japaljarri Ronson, Richard Japaljarri Payton, Travis Jungarrayi Penn, Saverio Jungarrayi Jurrah, Julius Jungarrayi Wardle, Ashwyn Jungarrayi Nelson, Daswan Jungarrayi Penn, Corey Jungarrayi  Raymond, Karim Jungarrayi Timms

Female Youth Dancers: Mary-Tiana Nungarrayi Simon, Rekkeisha Nungarrayi Rose, Renata Nungarrayi Gordon, Rexana Nungarrayi Herbert, Michelle Nungarrayi Tims, Roberta Nungarrayi Hector, Odessa Napaljarri Tippett, Erlinda Napaljarri McDonald, Sherrika Napaljarri Martin, Rayneisha Napaljarri Rose,

* Yuendumu Dancers/ singers

Australian Coat of Arms carriers 

Kirsty (Nakamarra) Patterson, Amanda (Nampijinpa) Horking, Nicci (Nakamarra) Marsham, Molly (Nungarrayi) Marsham, Michael (Jungarrayi) Marsham, Corrine (Napanangka) Slavek, Adriana (Nangala) Van Boxtel

Thank you

Lajamanu Progress Association, Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund, Newmont Mines, Lajamanu Community Education Centre staff, Lajamanu Council staff, Michael (Japanangka) Erglis, Billy Jampijinpa Bunter, Joe Japanangka James, Tim (Japanangka) Collins and the Wulaign Rangers, our family and friends and a special thank you to the clan group leaders who released their paintings, song cycles, Dreaming stories and ceremonies for public display.

Milpirri Management Body: Geoffrey Jungarrayi Barnes, Roger Jurrah Japaljarri, Martin Japanangka Johnson, Stephen Japanangka Dixon, Norbert Jampijinpa Patrick, Steven Jampijinpa Patrick, Tristan Japanangka Tasman, Maxwell Japanangka Tasman, Lynette Napangardi Tasman, Rene Napangardi Dixon, Robyn Napaljarri Payton, Doris Nakamarra Lewis, Laura Nakamarra Lewis and Annette Nampijinpa Patrick

Assistants to Steve Jampijinpa Patrick: Alan (Lance Jangala) Box, Roger Japaljarri Jurrah, Tristan Japanangka Tasman, Maxwell Japanangka Tasman, Rene Napangardi Dixon, Lynette Napangardi Tasman, Norbert Jampijinpa Patrick, Robyn Napaljarri Payton and Martin Japanangka Johnson

Tracks 2007

Artistic Directors: David McMicken and Tim Newth
General Manager: Fiona Carter
Dance Animateur: Julia Quinn
Youth Dance Animateur: Erwin Fenis
Administrative Assistant: Skye Raabe
Bookkeeper: Julie Ann Stark
Development Consultant: Suzanne Fermanis

Committee Members: (Chair) Jill MacAndrew, (Vice-Chair) Jackie Wurm/David Taylor, (Treasurer) Glenn Bernardin, (Secretary/Public Officer) Traci Keys, (Ordinary Committee Members) Ken Conway, Nick Papandonakis, Donna Quong, (Ex-Officio Members) David McMicken and Tim Newth

Public Fund Trustees: Rev. Steve Orme, Dr Anita Toth, Paul Wan



Explore Further

Lajamanu/Milpirri Home Page

Milpirri Dances - Videos

Iconic Tracks Works

2009 Milpirri - Jurntu

Cast Response

“The old people can’t stop talking about it, they are talking about it every night, every day.” Billy Bunter Jampijinpa. Warlpiri Elder

“It made me very proud.  Proud to dance for my group, proud to be Warlpiri, proud to see it from one end to the other.” Maxwell Tasman Japanangka. Dancer

“I was smiling all the time.  Me and Tina were smiling at each other.  I couldn’t stop smiling, I was so happy.  And we didn’t go wrong.  The small kids went wrong.  When I was small I used to run around and was very bad, but now I am older I have to be good.  I want to do MILPIRRI every day.” Reniece Nangala Poulson. youth dancer

“Those old ladies were crying for Witi – when those boys were dancing – they were crying for them – that made us feel strong for our culture.” Myra Herbert Nungarrayi. Senior Warlpiri Woman

“Really really good one, now we are going to do that ceremony with a big mob from all around.  We are going to get all those boys.  [Meaning, that they have decided to revitalise the Warlpiri Kurdiji ceremony as their initiation ceremony].” Joe James Japanangka. Warlpiri Elder

“We need to be proud people – but this time we are not talking about just Yapa (indigenous people) – we are talking about Kardiya (non-indigenous people) and Yapa.” Steven Jampijinpa Patrick

“White fellas and black fellas gotta stop standing back to back (back of hands held together) but instead we need to face each other and be friends (palms of hands held together)  [Talking about how the use of the coat of arms shows that Warlpiri and Westerners have something in common]” Jerry Patrick Jangala (Warlpiri Elder)

“We don’t have something like MILPIRRI, with all these young people, nothing.” Yuendumu Dancer

“That’s our culture, Warlpiri culture.” Teddy Morrison Jupurrula. Warlpiri Elder

Audience Response

“…. thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a fantastic event and the energy of those involved and for what it created for the whole Lajamanu community was magic.” Paul Davis. Community Relations Co-ordinator, Newmont Tanami Operations, The Granites Gold Mine

“…. it was an absolute joy to be in the audience. The MILPIRRI performance appears to be an exciting and vital vehicle for Walpiri people to keep their culture strong through traditional, ceremonial and contemporary dance, through song, through storytelling, through the distinction of ‘skin’ groups, and through the interaction of old people and young people.” Alison Copley. Indigenous Arts Marketing Officer, Top End Arts Marketing

“The kids were great, I can’t believe they danced so well, especially those little boys.” Anon


Milpirri 2007 is dedicated to Maisie (Kajingarra) Napangardi Granites for her long-term commitment to working with MILPIRRI and Tracks Dance. She is the Traditional owner for this Kurdiji ceremony.

“Puraya tarnngangku papardi-puraji-kurlangu wirliya………Nurla Wardapi-ki nyangka ngulyangka……Karla-kangku Warnangku Pajirni.”
“Always walk in the footstep of your big brother…
Be careful…when looking in the goanna’s hole, there might be a deadly snake in there….”



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