'Namarali': Cultural and spiritual renewal

A scene from 'Namarali'. Photo: Revelation Film Festival

Documentary film directed by Tim Mummery
Featuring Donny Woolagoodja

Donny (Yorna) Woolagoodja is a Worrorra man. In the 1960s, the Worrorra were moved off their lands on the Kimberley coastline by the government and taken far away to the town of Derby.

Woolagoodja’s father, Sam, was the last initiated custodian of the caves in which there are images of primal creator beings called Wandjinas, of whom the greatest is named Namarali.

It was the duty of the law men to renew the paintings every year. Women and children were excluded as it was deemed secret men’s business.

The documentary film Namarali shows archival footage of Sam, accompanied by a youthful Donny, leading an expedition to the caves in 1972. That was the last time the images were repainted.

Donny explains in the film that the Wandjinas created the landscape and then retired into the caves. The annual renewal kept the spirits satisfied and nature in balance.

The film shows Woolagoodja organising the community to travel to the site and perform the task. His project is to replenish and renew Worrorra tradition, keep the spirits alive and pass on the knowledge to young Worrorra people.

Because of the urgency of cultural survival, women and children are included in this restoration. More than that, Woolagoodja is taking the images to the broader community.

The whole world is now familiar with Namarali’s image, because a huge representation, designed by Donny Woolagoodja, featured in the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

The film has a haunting soundtrack, augmenting the richness of the landscape that melds with Donny meditatively and devotedly repainting the images. Donny's serenity and confidence in his culture feel like a gift to the Australian nation.

[The trailer for Namarali can be seen here.]