Environmental Humanities

Tiwi Song Culture and Loss

The interconnection between Tiwi song culture and mourning in the context of artistic creativity, cultural maintenance and community health.

Photo: G. Campbell
Photo by Genevieve Campbell.

This project explores the interconnectivity of cultural and social resilience and aims to reinforce the importance of oral ritual and knowledge systems, particularly those passed on through song in Tiwi practice.

The Tiwi community experiences a relatively high mortality rate, burdening not only the community itself, but also the rich oral song tradition that is increasingly at risk of being lost before older generations have the chance to pass it on. Song is an essential part of Tiwi culture and spirituality, and many of these songs are themselves essential in affirming identity and facilitating rituals surrounding the mourning process.

This project begins by transcribing, documenting and collecting a series of endangered songs as sung by past custodians and current Elders. Through workshops with Tiwi collaborators we hope to create discussion around oral knowledge traditions and what they mean to the Tiwi and broader community and how we engage with our past, our identity, with the natural world and each other. Central to the project is the creation of a new body of work using archival records, visual imagery and traditional design alongside new vocal work by Elders and emerging Tiwi song practitioners.

This project is being led by Dr Genevieve Campbell, a 2019 Sydney University Fellow at the Sydney Environment Institute and Sydney Conservatorium of Music.