Shown but not Shared, Presented but not Proffered: Redefining Ritual Identity among Warlpiri Ritual Performers, 1990–2000



Little has been written on the construction and projection of indigenous social identity in public (‘non-restricted’) ritual among Aboriginal Australians. Elsewhere, I have analysed nearly half a century of such public rituals (1946–1990) among the Warlpiri of Yuendumu in Central Australia, concentrating on the shifting forces of gender and kinship. This paper focuses on the key moments motivating senior Warlpiri women, since the 1990s, to reconfigure their ritual participation and roles in inter-indigenous ceremonial events. I analyse how these women participate in inter-Aboriginal performances, exhibiting the iconic and sensory virtues of the Dreaming and weaving new forms of political identity, shaped by the pressures of neo-colonialism, with female ambassadors of other Aboriginal groups. I argue that in this performative process women are reconfiguring the meanings of Aboriginalities and rearticulating their connectedness to one another, a connectedness rooted in their beliefs and responsibilities towards the Dreaming.