Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Twelve Canoes

Twelve Canoes is a multimedia web site following on from Rolf de Heer's film 10 Canoes . It features short multimedia works with the Yolngu people of the Arafura swamp. Wile the audio and visual content is breathtaking, the site is let down by poor web design. The designers shopuld implement accessibility features for the site and correct the errors in the HTML code to allow the site to be more widely used for education.

The site assumes a high spped Internet connection and even in Canberra on my wiless Internet link I had diffciulties. The web site has some text for display (excerpts below) to those who are unable to see the video. However, this is not normally apparent to the viewer, who will have to wait for video to download, unless they are using a text only or specially adapted web browser. It would be better if the site offered a text menu which allowed skipping the video rich content, for those on a slow link.

Some years ago I was invovled in projects to provide indiginous ciolutural content online,. Those suffered from taking too academic and textural approach to web based content. Twelcve canoes goes to other extreme and suffers from too little thought as to text and indexing inforamtion.

Unfortunately the web site has invalid HTML markup and some accessibility problems. When I attempted an accessibility test of the site, all I got was the message "Parked Page for 12canoes.com.au".

We are the first people of our lands.

These are some of our stories from where we have lived so long.

We welcome you to know about us, about our culture, this way.

12 Canoes

This website is built for us, for everyone.

There are 12 stories here about where we live, about how we came to be, about our history and about how we live now.

  • Creation
  • Our Ancestors
  • The Macassans
  • First White Men
  • ThomsonTime
  • The Swamp
  • Plants and Animals
  • Seasons
  • Kinship
  • Ceremony
  • Language
  • Nowadays


There are many artworks (by many artists), photos and music here about where we live, about how we came to be, about our history and about how we live now. ...

Gallery > People & Places

There are over 60 photos here about where and how we live.


About > Meanings

Yolngu: The literal translation of Yolngu is simply, "the people", but it is used nowadays as a term to describe the group of Australian Indigenous people (Aboriginals) living in or originating from central and eastern Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory.

Balanda: A word meaning "white person(s)", derived from the word "Hollander"...the Dutch were the first white people to come into contact with the Yolngu.

Macassan: The Macassans, from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia began visiting the north coast of Australia centuries ago. Their trade made the Yolngu a very powerful grouping economically. Such trading was stopped by the government in the 1906-07 season, and the economy of the region was destroyed by the imposition of Balanda law. ...

About > The People

We are the Yolngu people of Ramingining, in the northern part of Central Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory.

Ramingining is a town of about 800 of our people. More of our people live on outstations different distances from town. Also about 50 Balanda live here.

The nearest other town is Maningrida, more than two hours drive away except in the rainy season, when we can only fly there.

In Ramingining we have a store, a clinic, a school, a new police station, an arts centre, a resource centre, houses and not much else.

But we have history and culture here, that our ancestors have been growing for more than forty thousand years.

They passed that culture on from generation to generation. Now it's our turn to pass it on, not just to the next generation, but to people everywhere, all over the world.

That's because our way of life is changing fast now, and what you're going to see is for every generation to remember and keep our culture alive.

About > Where In The World

Ramingining is in the northern part of Central Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory.

Ramingining is a town of about 800 of our people.

About > Study Guide

This section coming soon. ...


We are proud of our community. We are proud of our history and our present.

We are proud of our children, and our artists, and our songmen, we are proud of our whole place.

Because we are proud of all these things, we are sharing them with you. We are glad that you are interested enough to be here.

We hope that if you like them, the paintings or the stories or any of it, that you will share them with other people who are interested in learning about us...

From: Twelve Canoes: Introduction, Indigemedia Incorporated, Christensen Fund, South Australian Film Corporation and Screen Australia, 2008

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Ten Canoes: From Samoa to Arafura Swamp

Ten Canoes Study Guides
The Australian movie "Ten Canoes" is set in the Arafura Swamp of the Australian Northern Territory. The film is inspired by a photograph of 10 canoeists of the the Yolngu people in the swamp, taken by the anthropologist Donald Thompson in the 30s.
The film has won three AFI awards and is Australia's entry for best foreign film at the 2007 Academy Awards.

What has this to do with Samoa? In 2005 I made a nine day visit to Apia, Samoa, at the request of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). It was to conduct a five day workshop for staff from museums around the South Pacific region on the use of computer and telecommunications technologies.

My report pointed out that many of the museums of the region were too small to support their own IT systems. It made sense for them to use a common system which could also share data. On my return to Australia I had ANU students do projects on how to accomplish this. I reported this work at the Pacific Museums in Sustainable Heritage Development, Asia Pacific Week in January 2006.

I was then contacted by a project attempting to combine data from two Australian museums. One of the students who worked on the pacific island project with me went to work on the Australian project. Another student build a demonstration system using test data from the museums. Their presentation, report and open source software are available.

It turned out that one of the museum collections for the project is the Donald Thomson Collection at University of Melbourne, with the photographs which inspired "Ten Canoes".

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