Sustaining women's yawulyu/awelye: some practitioners' and learners' perspectives

10 May 2019

In 2010 the authors visited various Central Australian communities including Willowra, Tennant Creek, Alekarenge, Barrow Creek and Ti Tree, to interview some of our research collaborators past and present about how they saw the present and future of their yawulyu/awelye traditions. Yawulyu (in Warlpiri and Warumungu) and Awelye (in Kaytetye and other Arandic languages) are cognate names for women’s country-based rituals, including songs, dancing, ritual objects and knowledge surrounding particular country and Dreaming stories. In the course of our research we spoke to women from different communities, different age groups, different language groups, and different clans, seeking to open discussion about past and contemporary practices of learning, performing and teaching this performance-based knowledge, to help us to understand what the practitioners saw as the most fruitful ways of sustaining the traditions, as well as what difficulties they saw in their way. In this article we present statements from many of the women interviewed, highlighting the key issues that emerged and discussing the role of recordings and other documentation of performances for the future sustainability of the various yawulyu/awelye traditions discussed.