Madadbuma the Datiwuy shark | Courtesy of Miyarrka Media
Madadbuma the Datiwuy shark | Courtesy of Miyarrka Media


15 March - 15 August 2014

Curated by Miyarrka Media and developed for exhibition with the Anthropology Museum

Purchase the catalogue here.
"We decided to name our exhibition Gapuwiyak Calling because we’re calling you through our phones, calling so you can connect to us.  We’re grabbing hold of new possibilities using these little things.  Maybe you’ll answer us?" - Paul Gurrumuruwuy


In 2008 the introduction of Telstra’s 3G mobile network generated a wave of creative energy across Arnhem Land. New genres of video, photography and performance flourished. Travelling lightning-speed via satellite and Bluetooth, this emerging digital culture rode the energy of the new and the cheeky. Moving hand-to-hand, kin-to-kin, community-to-community, it drew inspiration from both the internet and the ancestral.  It was made to be watched, to be shared, and then deleted to make way for the next.

So began a new era in Australian Indigenous media.  
Gapuwiyak Calling celebrates mobile phones as technologies of creativity and connection.  Curated by Miyarrka Media, a media-arts collective based in the northeast Arnhem Land community of Gapuwiyak, it features phone-made material collected over the past five years, as well as film and video produced specifically for this exhibition.    
Djarrawalwu, 2013
Photo courtesy of Miyarrka Media

The show features a number of distinct genres of Yolngu phone-media.  They include phone-art collage featuring giant green frogs and dreadlocked babies; cut and pasted family photographs uniting the living and the dead in flashing gif files; biyarrmak (funny) videos featuring fragments of mainstream television and movies re-voiced with Yolngu jokes in Yolngu languages; young men dancing in blue grass skirts ordered from the internet to a remix of the 1980s hit Sweet Dreams; other men dancing furiously to the Can-Can song while making fierce claims about Yolngu Culture; and a short film about the variety of ringtones in use in Gapuwiyak, from ceremonial songs, to gospel and hip-hop.  

Although much of the content is deliberately playful, incorporating ostensibly ‘foreign’ sound and image elements accessed via the internet connection on their phones, the Yolngu curators nonetheless see the exhibition as an opportunity to assert enduring and meaningful connections between generations of Yolngu kin living through times of enormous social stress and change.                                                                                                    
Structured according to a Yolngu poetics of call-and-response, the exhibition takes motif and meaning from the actions of an ancestral mokuy (trickster spirit) who lives in the stringybark forests of Arnhem Land. In ancestral times this mokuy signalled other clans with his dhadalal (a special didgeridoo) sensuously establishing enduring and ritually significant relationships between places and people across the region. The sound dhadalal became a way to gather all the clans—dhuwa and yirritja moieties—together for certain large public ceremonies.  
As Miyarrka Media’s Paul Gurrumuruwuy describes, “It’s a sound everyone can hear.  It reaches the ears and the mind, so everyone, all the clans, will move in and join together”.
In this exhibition gallery visitors will be greeted by this special dhadalal call—a call which as it resonates in the space together the sound of ringing phones gestures to the possibility of new kinds of digitally mediated relationships both within and beyond Arnhem Land.
 Miyarrka Media Curators
James Bangaliwuy Ganambarr
Warren Balpatji Gurruwiwi
Enid Gurungulmiwuy Wunungmurra
Jennifer Bununuk Deger Wunungmurra
Meredith Balanydjarrk Wunungmurrua
Paul Gurrumuruwuy Wunungmurra
Evan Birrkbirrk Wyatt Wanambi
Kayleen Djingadjingawuy Wanambi
Fiona Yangathu Wanambi

Concept and content curation: Miyarrka Media
Co ordinating assistant curator: Charla Strelan 
Project co ordination: Jane Willcock
Curatorial and Installation direction: Diana Young
Installation: Kiri Chan, Charla Strelan



For Miyarrka Media this show represents more than simply an opportunity to travel to Brisbane to exhibit material from an exotic and separate elsewhere. The installation is intended to position both Yolngu and gallery visitors in a relationship of potential connectability made possible by these new technologies and the shared imaginative and communicative spaces they animate. And so the exhibition poses several implicit questions: What kinds of new recognitions and reciprocations is this exhibition attempting to produce? Why does this matter at this moment in Australian social, as well as technological, history? How might we answer this call from Gapuwiyak?

Conceived and curated out of contemporary Yolngu imperatives, Gapuwiyak Calling represents a unique social commentary on the communicative intimacies and connective power of mobile phones. By claiming creative digital re-mediation as a critical form of cultural labour, this phone-made media (and the exhibition that frames it) challenges binary ways of thinking about human and non-human, global and local, tradition and modernity, past and present, living and dead, old media and new media, Yolngu and Balanda (non-Aboriginal). It brings new dimension to the study of subjects such as digital media; Aboriginal art, media and development; ICTs and cultural change; experimental ethnography; collaborative methods; performance studies; and museum studies.

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