In Australia’s remote northeast Arnhem Land, Christmas is celebrated as a time to remember the dead, a time to evoke ancestral spirits (birrimbirr) and a time to renew and revitalize relationships amongst the living. Under the guidance of Yolngu director, Paul Gurrumuruwuy, Christmas Birrimbirr experiments with re-producing Yolngu Christmas rites in the gallery setting. Drawing on Yolngu aesthetics and social values, the work uses new media technologies to strengthen contemporary Yolngu society while “sharing feelings” across cultures.
Christmas Birrimbirr’s central focus is a three-channel video work that opens with images of the seasonal wulma clouds (brooding formations that signal the coming of both Christmas and the wet season). Symbolically structured around the graves of three Dhalwangu clan leaders, the unfolding sounds and images enact a poetics of loss and renewal, mourning and joy.
Christmas Birrimbirr (Christmas Spirit) is a new iteration of Miyarrka Media work originally shown at Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin in 2011.