The Mulka Project is a multimedia archive and production center dedicated to showcasing and preserving Australia’s Yolŋu Aboriginal culture. Located in Yirrkala, in Australia’s northeast Arnhem Land, the project gives the Yolŋu community access to a wide range of new and old film, sound files, and images, and helps the younger generation of Yolŋu use multimedia technology to tell their own stories.
Yirrkala was founded as a mission station in 1935, and since that time outsiders have documented the lives of the Yolŋu People, usually taking their photos and recordings away to museums, academic institutions, and private collections. Mulka launched in 2007 in part to repatriate and collate all of those resources, as well as to create new ones.
“A lot of the old people have passed away or are dying,” says Joseph Brady, project director at the Mulka Project. “There’s a lot of information from them, stories. There is information about how ceremonies were done. It’s important for the youngest generation so they can watch the videos and learn through watching. That’s how we keep our culture rolling.”
Community members use the knowledge warehoused in this archive for everything from entertainment to cultural research to genealogy. The photo archive captures up to five generations and contains a wealth of information about traditions that have been passed down for centuries.
Young Yolŋu filmmaker Ishmael Marika, 23, who was trained at Mulka, believes that documenting and archiving the biocultural vitality of Yirrkala is essential for the future of his people and the local environment.
“For me, it’s worry about the young kids because they’re not following their elders,” he says. “Mulka is an opportunity for them to come and learn with us. My thing is protecting the land and the sea, and the Mulka project is protecting language and culture.”