In October 2007, a YouTube clip of an indigenous dance group performing on a basketball court went viral and birthed an unforeseen phenomenon.
Over a decade later, “Zorba the Greek Yolngu style” is approaching three million views.
What started as a tribute piece has since evolved into a popular touring act – Djuki Mala – led by artistic director and producer, Josh Bond.
“Djuki Mala has been running for just over 12 years now,” says Josh. “I don’t think any one of us ever thought this YouTube clip would take us this far, both geographically and in terms of longevity.
“It’s quite a beautiful story. The lead dancer’s sister was severely ill… she had a severe case of muscular dystrophy and wasn’t able to be taken care of on the island (Elcho Island which is off the coast of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory).
“As is the case for a lot of indigenous communities, there’s limited support. She was moved to another part of Darwin where she was cared for by a Greek lady and the dance was a thank you to her and to bring a bit of joy to his sister’s life.”
Djuki Mala – who will be bringing their 60-minute show to Geelong as part of the Aurora Spiegeltent next month – is a celebration of the Yolngu people. Josh says although the show is fun, comedic and fast-paced, it also presents itself as an educational tool to non-indigenous people.
“It’s really beautiful, and even more beautiful that people are really connecting with Yolngu culture in a way that’s really accessible to nonindigenous people right across the world,” he says.
“We weren’t sure how people would take it overseas, but wherever we go the reaction is the same – people feel an incredible sense of joy, laughter… some people even cry.
“If I was to sum it up, I’d say it’s an autobiographical genesis to the intimate moments of Djuki Mala.”
Djuki Mala performer Baykali Ganambarr says the show challenges the western anthropological view of first nations culture.
“We do this with our humour, our dance, our story, our culture,” he says.
“It’s alive, it’s living, breathing, ever changing and evolving, rooted in over 75,000 years of ancestral knowledge. We take our culture out of the museum and place it very firmly in the 21st century with a bit of circus and bling.”
Djuki Mala will perform at the Aurora Spiegeltent (Johnstone Park, Geelong) on Friday June 14 and Saturday June 15. Tickets are $45 per person. To secure yours, visit spiegeltentgeelong. com/what-s-on/djuki-mala.