Malandarri Festival, Borroloola

2022 Malandarri Festival

Friday 17 – Saturday 18 June, Borroloola Showgrounds

Watch the Malandarri Festival video 2022 by Good Well Productions

Download the Artistic Report

The Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Gurdanji and Mara peoples welcomed guests and performers onto Yanyuwa Country to celebrate culture through music, and dance.

Special guests in 2022 were the  Dhambul Dancers (Devil Dancers) from Numbulwar; Dave Spry who performed with Roper Gulf musician Barnabus Timothy, and Dr Shellie Morris for the debut performance of The Woman’s Cultural Song Project.  A powerful cross cultural collaboration of the Tiwi Strong Woman’s Choir joining voices with the Borroloola Women’s Choir.

Arrkula Yinbayarra (together we sing) is a project born of a passion for women’s voices to be elevated and heard in languages that are endangered but have a strong culture of songlines, dances and connection that have always been linked to country.

Dr Shellie Morris has spent many years being invited to communities around the world but her relationship with the Borroloola Songwomen is one of the most special, due equally to her journey of discovery and her familial ties to the region as a Yanyuwa woman. She has been working since 2008 with women from the different language groups connected to the Borroloola area in a collaboration to create a women’s cultural song group that celebrates the living languages of the region. This gathering of women was a vision of Marlene Timothy who dreamed of strengthening the traditional languages Yanyuwa, Marra, Garrwa and Gudanji with new songs created together. While Dr Morris is Director of the group, Shellie considers herself a student under the strong Songwomen of the languages, dance and culture and the two-way learning between all to sit, listen, create and sing has been one of the most rewarding of her career so far.

The project was included in the July 2022 edition of Land Rights New, Northern Edition, page 12

Read it here

2021 Malandarri Festival

18 – 19 June, Borroloola Showgrounds

Artistic Report

The 2021 Malandarri Festival was held over 18-19 June and was a very localised program, with a strong emphasis on cultural tradition and transition to younger generations.

Due to National Covid-19 standards to deal with a pandemic, the event focused on local input with minimum outsiders involved in the event. This meant community agency driven program development with a strong focus on the younger generation and intergenerational advocacy.

Showcasing performance, song, dance and community festivities, the 2 day event attracted a strong audience attendance across both days. A local workforce was utilised primarily, working alongside long term Borroloola stakeholders locally supporting the event.

The family focused event commenced with traditional dance and transitioned with ease into a younger generation of joyful performance, ending with legendary local band The Sandridge Band creating a wonderful celebration of music and dancing.

This event was the first key community cultural event since the National Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020. The event was scheduled for October 2020 however was postponed following the passing of key community Elders. The community has also been affected by the national lockdown, loss of income from tourists and a reduction in economic development, with schools restricted with travel and programming. But a key loss, which is harshly felt across the community, has been the passing of Elders across all clans, affecting their performance of traditional ceremony, and taking part in the festival.


2019 Malandarri Festival

14 – 15 June, Borroloola Showgrounds

Artistic Report

Festival goers enjoyed and immersed themselves in the amazing Indigenous culture brought to them from the four clan groups living in Borroloola, the Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Gurdanji and Mara Peoples’. The 2019 Malandarri Festival was a vibrant celebration of dance and music between Borroloola and visiting performers from Beswick, Numbulwar, Tennant Creek, Doomadgee, Samoa and Hawaii.

The Malandarri Festival is known for its strong multi-cultural representation and celebrates both traditional and contemporary arts and culture. 2019 focused on traditional Indigenous languages and the cultural exchange between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artistic practice.

The line-up included performances from Borroloola clan groups Yanyuwa (Ngardiji Dancers), Garrwa (Wandangula and Blind Mermaid Dancers) and Mara Dancers, Bongiliny Bongiliny – White Cockatoo, Gangalidda Dancers from Doomadgee, Nuholani and Heilani (Polynesian dance group), Sandridge Band, Malandarri Band and the Barkly Drifters who fuse country blues and rock. A pop-up exhibition displayed works by local artists produced in a workshop under the guidance of photographer Benjamin Warlngundu Bayliss. Family fun activities included a jumping castle, face painting, dance workshop, soccer and a reading space to share quiet time for parents and carers with babies and toddlers. The marketplace operated on the Saturday and included a stall showcasing the traditional bush food and medicine of the region.

Engagement of local staff and growing opportunities for community members continued, this included training and employment opportunities outside of the festival period. The Festival successfully supported the cultural and artistic capacity of the region and saw an increase of tourism numbers to the event.

Marlene Timothy, Festival Director began succession planning for the Malandarri Festival program identifying Mara man, Barnabas Timothy to be trained in the delivery of workshop programs, festival management, music development and cultural learning activities. For the 2019 Festival, Barnabas undertook a key role working with the production team, managing the training participants and crew throughout the festival delivery, as well as performing as a musician and song man for Mara clan group.

Malandarri Festival 2019 video

2018 Malandarri Festival

15 – 16 June, Borroloola Showgrounds

Artistic Report

The 2018 Malandarri Festival further embedded the community led aspect of the event with an increase in pre-festival workshops, greater lead in participation from local organisations and the engagement of local production crew in training and employment throughout the festival. Over two nights of performance and one day of market place activity the Festival was a vibrant celebration of arts and cultural practices with performances from local clans, visiting dance groups, bands, school choirs and international guests.

To Festival began with a moving tribute dance for the old people led by Isa McDinny, Jemima Miller and Dinah Norman – to acknowledge a number of significant losses in the months preceding the Festival. Traditional performances from Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Mara and Wandangula dance groups followed, with Gurdanji taking a rest year from performing at the Festival.

2018 special guests included Divas on Tour – an all-female NT Indigenous music showcase, visiting dance group Laginda Sandalwood dancers from Doomadgee, Indigenous Amis singer Suming Rupi from Taiwan. Local performers included Malandarri Band, The Sandridge Band,  Keinan Appleby, the Borroloola School Choir and the early Education program.

Malandarri Festival 2018 video

2017 Malandarri Festival

16 – 17 June, Borroloola Showgrounds 

Artistic Report

2017 saw five local dance groups perform at Malandarri Festival. Continuing on from last year’s practice, each clan group and their Elders supported one another with singing and dancing.  The first day was opened by the Mara clan who led a parade with Borroloola school students. This was to pay respects to Elders who had passed away from Gurdanji and Mara clans, and were key participants of the festival in previous years.

For this years festival, Elders had also invited a Bollywood Indian dance group to attend, reflecting the community’s desire to continue to collaborate with different cultural groups. ITDP Program Coordinator Fipe Preuss also shared her cultural dance practice, spending time with Borroloola School running movement workshops that focused on Polynesian storytelling. Fipe performed several forms of Polynesian dance including Hawaiian, Tahitian and Pasifika Fire dancing during the festival.

This year saw three bands perform as part of the programming. Malandarri Band, The Sandridge Band and High Tide Band presented a celebration in dance for everyone at the end of the festival, ensuring the focus of the festival: traditional dance, was not compromised.

2016 Malandarri Festival

21 and 22 October, Borroloola Showgrounds

Artistic Report

DanceSite returned to Borroloola with a new name! Now known as Malandarri Festival, this special community-based event celebrated both traditional and contemporary arts and cultural practices from the four clan groups living in Borroloola – the Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Gurdanji and Mara people.

Malandarri Festival is the product of a four year relationship established by Artback NT with the community of Borroloola. By building capacity and handing over as many skills as possible to the local community, the ITDP partnership ensures the Festival’s sustainability as the key arts and cultural event for Borroloola and the region.

This year’s festival featured music from the Malandarri Band who performed for the first time in 20 years, along with EllaRay, and The Sandridge Band. Traditional dance groups included Wandangula, Blind Mermaid Dancers, Ngardji Dancers, Yellow Kokowam (Murray Island), and Djuki Mala.

2015 DanceSite Festival

18 and 19 September, Borroloola Showgrounds

Artistic Report

This year’s DanceSite Festival saw the event consist of two full nights of traditional dance programming. Each local dance group performed over both nights, as well as visiting dance groups from Kununurra, WA and Ngukurr, NT – both performing at DanceSite for the first time. In addition, Artback NT presented The Kailani Dancers as the headline act, hailing from the small Pacific nation of Kiribati, who have also seen their traditional dance and cultural practices become critically endangered. Their performance wowed and invigorated the crowd, many of whom had never seen Pacific traditional dance performed live.

2014 DanceSite Festival

19 July, Borroloola Showgrounds

Over 100 traditional Indigenous performers from across the Gulf Region took part in this year’s festival, in front of an audience of over 1000 people. There were many very successful layers to this event; along with the solid foundation that was developed over the previous 15 months of delivering the program, DanceSite was able to engage with new community members and provide employment opportunities for over 120 local Borroloola residents. Performers included dancers from the four clan groups: Mara, Gurdanji, Ngardiji and Wandangula, along with visiting groups, the Red Flag Dancers and Sabai (Murray Island).

2013 DanceSite Festival

15 June, Borroloola Showgrounds

This year’s headline act for DanceSite was Djuki Mala (the Chooky Dancers) from Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island). In addition to performing, Djuki Mala also delivered a series of workshops at the Borroloola School. As a successful NT based dance group, the dancers acted as great role models to the children and young men, showing there can be the collaboration of both traditional and contemporary dance into a performance.

Five local dance groups performed, including a group from Robinson River, as well as a range of local and interstate dance groups. These included the Mornington Island Dancers from Queensland, as well as Ti Tree and Ali Curung from throughout the NT.


Marlene Timothy

Malandarri Festival Director and Cultural Events Officer

Borroloola, NT

08 8941 1444