12 Canoes website to go live

[Release by CG Publicity]

Following the world-wide success of Ten Canoes, the Yolngu people of Ramingining in Arnhem Land offer the world a more in depth view of their society and culture. One of the oldest cultures in existence shares  its stories using the most modern technology to bring the world.
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 live in Arnhem Land, in Northern Territory of Australia.
For long time our people been wanting to show our culture to the world.
We made that film, Ten Canoes. That was really beginning of it.
So now here is our culture, our place, our history…here is 12 Canoes.
Different stories, 12 of them…Creation, and First White Men, all different parts of our history…The Swamp, and The Seasons, and Plants and Animals, all about where we live…Kinship and Language and Nowadays, how we live today.
And more than that.  Everything put together is one story.
It is us, like a painting of our story.

Twelve Canoes is a website which paints a compelling portrait of the art, culture, history and place of the Yolngu people whose homeland is the town of Ramingining and the Arafura Swamp of north-central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
The high-end site is a work of art in itself; honouring the people of the Arafura swamp, and built around twelve filmed “visual poems” describing and illustrating many aspects of Yolngu history, life and culture from Creation, Our Ancestors, The Macassans, First White Men, Thomson Time, The Swamp, Plants and Animals, and Seasons, to Kinship, Ceremony, Language, and a slice of contemporary life in Nowadays.
Other features of the site include galleries which showcase Ramingining art and artists, music and songmen, language and common terms, and photographs that capture the essence of life in the region. 
The website has been created and developed by filmmaker Rolf de Heer and Molly Reynolds in conjunction with a consultative committee from the Ramingining Community including Peter Minygululu, Richard Birrinbirrin (associate producer on Ten Canoes), Philip Gudthaykudthay, Peter Djigirr (co-director of Ten Canoes) and Bobby Bunungurr, all community elders and artists in their own right.
“Back in 2003, while collaborating with the Indigenous Yolngu people of Ramingining to devise a story line for the film Ten Canoes, a lot of material, of greatly varied subject matter, was brought in for discussion, with the individual Yolngu contributors each very keen to have their ideas incorporated, and that the film in some way should reflect the entirety of their lives, culture and history,” said filmmaker Rolf de Heer. ”There was soon general recognition that no film could achieve all that, and the idea of a website was born."
“Twelve Canoes has been developed with the aim of showcasing Yolngu culture, in particular the people of the Arufura Swamp, to the world. They are proud of their culture and homelands, and they are proud to invite the world to share this knowledge,” said project director Molly Reynolds.

The Twelve Canoes website was designed and built by Wanted Digital. Wanted Digital is a creative digital agency who specialises in high quality planning, design and execution of digital communications.  Their ambition with the Twelve Canoes site was to create an immersive digital experience in which the design and navigation enhances, but never overpowers, the superb content.

Mark Eland, Wanted Digital Creative Director says “We saw this as a real opportunity to leverage the online environment’s strengths by providing a experience that challenges DVD and cinema status quo by offering a more immersive state of engagement.” The site was designed to take advantage of engaging with high end video content through broadband access now and in the future. is being hosted by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia through their website. The National Film and Sound Archive is Australia’s national cultural institution committed to safeguarding and making as accessible the national collection of audiovisual cultural heritage to the widest possible audience. 
Paolo Cherchi Usai, NFSA’s Executive Director said, “The NFSA is pleased to be the access and hosting partner in 12 Canoes as part of our commitment to support creative propositions using new technologies and to work in collaboration with Indigenous communities to support their cultural self-determination.”
Twelve subjects, each of which deals with a particular key aspect of Yolngu culture, place, or history, were developed, incorporating works of art, video material, stills, music and sound.

These twelve stories, poetic in nature with strong, sometimes ethereal imagery, are accompanied by words from different Ramingining story-tellers.

Creation tells of when the people of the area came into being. As there are many creation stories, this is the story of Dog Dreaming and his travels from the Swamp to the sea.

Our Ancestors describes the way the Yolngu used to live, in the old times, before the arrival of any visitors from the outside world, and how this society used to operate.

The Macassans, from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, were the first who came from another place. Long before the coming of the white man, the Macassans were trading partners of the Yolngu, who were introduced to cloth, metal, tobacco and sea-faring skills.
First White Men tells of the various wars, ultimately won at great cost to them, fought by the Yolngu to protect their lands and people from the encroachment by white man, including the Americans who tried ranching the land.

Thomson Time speaks of Dr Donald Thomson, the anthropologist who came to solve the turmoil in Arnhem Land in the 1930’s. Thomson learnt language, lived with, studied and befriended the people and was a great advocate for them to government.

The Swamp describes the World Heritage listed Arafura wetlands just south of Ramingining. The Swamp and its people have a historical, cultural, economic and spiritual relationship which is now threatened by a number of factors.

Plants and Animals is about the diversity of plant and animal life of the Arafura wetlands and surrounding areas, and their continuing but fragile existence in a changing world.

Seasons is about how the blooming of a flower can tell you the sharks are being born in the sea; it is about the interaction of the changing life cycles that punctuate the weather patterns of the Yolngu year.

Kinship highlights the complexity and historical importance of family structure and ancestral relationships. The expression of kinship today has evolved, but its importance and complexity remain.

Ceremony is about the rites and rituals that describe aspects of the Yolngu inner life, the ceremonies that bind the community together and keep the people and their traditions strong.

Language tells the story of how the different languages were given to the different clans of people of the region and describes the relationship of the clan groups and the people as a whole to their languages.

Nowadays captures a slice of the contemporary way of life for the Yolngu in the township of Ramingining.

A two-disc DVD version of the 12 stories and selected video extras will be released through Ronin Films. A study guide for schools is also available.
Twelve Canoes was produced with the assistance of the Christensen Fund, Screen Australia,  the South Australian Film Corporation and the National Film & Sound Archive.
The site has been developed by Wanted Digital.