We recently had the opportunity to catch up with ALPA Director Mr Keith Dhammarandji Lapulung during the Gartjirrk Festival.
The festival holds a special place in Keith’s heart as he was a founding member of the festival in 1982.

Keith proudly told us that this was the 39th anniversary of the Garjirrk festival and he can't wait for it to hit 40 years in 2022.

The foundation of the festival was to give musicians from all the camp areas on the island an opportunity to perform together.

Up until the Gatjirrik festival, the only opportunity for singers and dancers (of traditional Bungul) to perform was at ceremonies and funerals. The founding members thought that if everyone had an opportunity to perform together that all the singers and dancers could celebrate culture without the reverence of being performed at a culturally significant ceremony.

“it allowed us to perform for the fun of it. To show off our dancing skills in a fun environment”

One of the highlights of the Gatjirrik festival remains to be the Bungul night where each clan is offered to come and show off their skills.

The final two nights of the festival celebrate more contemporary music and dance with a Hip-Hop dance competition on the Makarrata grounds- a culturally significant venue that has hosted the venue with the express permission of community leaders.

A community feast of a BBQ often including buliki (cattle) and guya (fish) was also provided by the MOPRA Rangers and the bands travelled from all across the Top End to show off their performance skills.

Keith added that “it is amazing to see that these festivals continue to provide an opportunity for community members to continue to engage with the performing arts. It is a real job for many Yolŋu”.