History

Marrugeku began with the project Mimi which was commissioned by the Festival of Perth to premiere in 1996. The production was made in Gunbalanya, Western Arnhem Land and based on the stories of Kunwinjku painter and storyman Thompson Yulidjirri and the Karrparra song cycle of Kunwinjku songman Bruce Nabegeyo. Mimi was developed from an original concept by Kamilaroi/Mandandanji choreographer Michael Leslie in collaboration with Stalker Theatre, then known worldwide for acrobatic dancing on stilts.  Mimi was like nothing that had been seen before and created a sensation in Australia and worldwide. The production was co-devised by Kunwinjku storytellers, musicians and dancers, the West Australian Aboriginal dancers Michael brought to the project and physical theatre performers from Stalker Theatre. Mimi was directed by Rachael Swain who founded Marrugeku with Michael Leslie in 1994. Marrugeku was created as a result of the project Mimi and was therefore co-founded by a large group of artists from diverse backgrounds

Marrugeku (currently written in a more recent orthography as marrkidjbu) is a Kunwinjku language word which is explained as ‘clever men’. A clever man can be described as a medicine man with supernatural powers who can communicate with ancestors and the spirit world. The name was given to the Company by Kunwinjku traditional owner Jacob Nayinggul on whose country we created our first works.

Since then, Marrugeku has grown and changed, creating long-term intercultural projects in remote and small-town Indigenous communities.  Mimi was followed in 2002 by Crying Baby which was also developed during long residencies in Gunbalanya and likewise premiered at the Perth Festival. In 2003 Marrugeku shifted its base to Broome in WA, home of several founding company members.

Marrugeku has pioneered contemporary, process-driven, intercultural performance practice and its exposure in national and international arts festivals has had a significant impact on raising awareness of Indigenous culture. Marrugeku’s performances have taken it in 4WD’s, barges and small planes throughout remote communities and led to ‘live by satellite’ performances beamed from Uluru’s Mutitjulu community to millions around the world during the Millennium celebrations. The Company’s international tours have resulted in seasons as far flung as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Brazil, the Philippines and New Caledonia reaching out and touching audiences with a scope that is perhaps unparalleled in Australia.

Marrugeku’s artistic vision is driven by its co-artistic directors Rachael Swain and Dalisa Pigram in consultation with the community. Rachael Swain is a director, dramaturge and dance researcher. As a founding member of Marrugeku, she has facilitated and directed the Company’s productions and pioneered Marrugeku’s innovative combination of contemporary arts practices with intercultural processes and community consultation. In 2009 Marrugeku appointed Broome-based dancer and co-founding company member Dalisa Pigram to the position of co-artistic director alongside Rachael. Dalisa has a deeply-held commitment to contemporary forms of Indigenous dance and theatre which grow from authentic engagement with community. Her work explores the many facets of Indigenous Australian life and incorporates Yawuru language, dance, theatre, gymnastics and aerial acrobatics. She is a dancer and choreographer and a Yawuru language teacher. Dalisa and Rachael work directly with Yawuru lawman (Senator) Patrick Dodson who is the Company’s primary cultural consultant.

The Company’s first Broome-based production Burning Daylight (2006) toured nationally to wide acclaim in 2009. Marrugeku’s subsequent work, Buru explored the experiences of Broome’s Indigenous young people, living in their unique environment; incorporating dance on stilts, video and songs and rap performed in Yawuru and English. Buru toured into the Kimberley in 2011 and on to Canada and the USA in 2012. Gudirr Gudirr a solo for Dalisa Pigram premiered in March 2013 and has toured nationally and internationally from then to 2017 while our newest work Cut the Sky premiered in 2015 and since then has toured all mainland states as well as Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and New Caledonia.

Marrugeku began with the project Mimi which was commissioned by the Festival of Perth to premiere in 1996. The production was made in Gunbalanya, Western Arnhem Land and based on the stories of Kunwinjku painter and storyman Thompson Yulidjirri and the Karrparra song cycle of Kunwinjku songman Bruce Nabegeyo. Mimi was developed from an original concept by Kamilaroi/Mandandanji choreographer Michael Leslie in collaboration with Stalker Theatre, then known worldwide for acrobatic dancing on stilts.  Mimi was like nothing that had been seen before and created a sensation in Australia and worldwide. The production was co-devised by Kunwinjku storytellers, musicians and dancers, the West Australian Aboriginal dancers Michael brought to the project and physical theatre performers from Stalker Theatre. Mimi was directed by Rachael Swain who founded Marrugeku with Michael Leslie in 1994. Marrugeku was created as a result of the project Mimi and was therefore co-founded by a large group of artists from diverse backgrounds

Marrugeku (currently written in a more recent orthography as marrkidjbu) is a Kunwinjku language word which is explained as ‘clever men’. A clever man can be described as a medicine man with supernatural powers who can communicate with ancestors and the spirit world. The name was given to the Company by Kunwinjku traditional owner Jacob Nayinggul on whose country we created our first works.

Since then, Marrugeku has grown and changed, creating long-term intercultural projects in remote and small-town Indigenous communities.  Mimi was followed in 2002 by Crying Baby which was also developed during long residencies in Gunbalanya and likewise premiered at the Perth Festival. In 2003 Marrugeku shifted its base to Broome in WA, home of several founding company members.

Marrugeku has pioneered contemporary, process-driven, intercultural performance practice and its exposure in national and international arts festivals has had a significant impact on raising awareness of Indigenous culture. Marrugeku’s performances have taken it in 4WD’s, barges and small planes throughout remote communities and led to ‘live by satellite’ performances beamed from Uluru’s Mutitjulu community to millions around the world during the Millennium celebrations. The Company’s international tours have resulted in seasons as far flung as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Brazil, the Philippines and New Caledonia reaching out and touching audiences with a scope that is perhaps unparalleled in Australia.

Marrugeku’s artistic vision is driven by its co-artistic directors Rachael Swain and Dalisa Pigram in consultation with the community. Rachael Swain is a director, dramaturge and dance researcher. As a founding member of Marrugeku, she has facilitated and directed the Company’s productions and pioneered Marrugeku’s innovative combination of contemporary arts practices with intercultural processes and community consultation. In 2009 Marrugeku appointed Broome-based dancer and co-founding company member Dalisa Pigram to the position of co-artistic director alongside Rachael. Dalisa has a deeply-held commitment to contemporary forms of Indigenous dance and theatre which grow from authentic engagement with community. Her work explores the many facets of Indigenous Australian life and incorporates Yawuru language, dance, theatre, gymnastics and aerial acrobatics. She is a dancer and choreographer and a Yawuru language teacher. Dalisa and Rachael work directly with Yawuru lawman (Senator) Patrick Dodson who is the Company’s primary cultural consultant.

The Company’s first Broome-based production Burning Daylight (2006) toured nationally to wide acclaim in 2009. Marrugeku’s subsequent work, Buru explored the experiences of Broome’s Indigenous young people, living in their unique environment; incorporating dance on stilts, video and songs and rap performed in Yawuru and English. Buru toured into the Kimberley in 2011 and on to Canada and the USA in 2012. Gudirr Gudirr a solo for Dalisa Pigram premiered in March 2013 and has toured nationally and internationally from then to 2017 while our newest work Cut the Sky premiered in 2015 and since then has toured all mainland states as well as Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and New Caledonia.