Arnhem Land 1988
Nanjing ProjectsJuggling the Data

Rolling on to Ramingining

From Galiwin’ku, the company flew back to the mainland, to Ramingining. The flight along the northern coast of East Arnhem Land, like all the Air North flights on this tour, was spectacular. The pilots even indulged the company in crocodile spotting, swooping low across the beaches.

Many of the Circus Oz members who went on the 1988 tour remember it as the highlight of their time with the company. And it wasn’t only the magnificent scenery. They also remember the warm welcome they received in each of the communities along the way and the cultural exchanges that happened everyday.

For example, at each stop of the tour, company member Anni Davey would recruit a local yidaki player for the show. “I would say there’s this piece in the show and it needs to be accompanied by yidaki,” she remembers, “and is there anybody in the community that would like to play in the show. We'd always find somebody.”

The recording from Ramingining shows how this exchange altered the rhythm and pacing of the performance. A large audience has gathered, and children continued to use the play equipment while also watching the entertainment. A quarter of the way into the performance, the show stops as the guest yidikai player, identified in the video as Johnny, is introduced.

Teresa Blake and Melinda Frith on the Chinese pole in Arnhem Land, 1988. Theatre and Dance Platform.
Johnny Gaykumanu plays the yidaki with the Circus Oz band during Teresa Blake cloudswing routine. Theatre and Dance Platform.
The company poses on the Air North plane on the Arnhem Land tour, 1988.

He slowly makes his way to the improvised stage and joins the band for Teresa Blake’s cloudswing routine. The Bula Bula Arts Centre in Ramingining assisted us in identifying him as John Gaykumanu. Unfortunately, he has passed away.

In interviews, Circus Oz members fondly remember the enthusiasm of the local children for tumbling and their excitement on the mats. In each community, the kids were also keen to show the circus visitors around the local swimming places.

In Yirrkala, a group went with some local kids to a nearby beach. “We asked about crocodiles,” remembers Susan Provan. “Because we’d seen them from the plane. They told us not to worry. They said just get out quick if we get out. So we’re watching all these kids, hoping we don’t turn round and find they’ve all gone.”

After the show at Ramingining, on Wednesday 13 July, the company slept in their swags under the monkey bars at the local playground. The next morning they flew out to Maningrida, the last stop on the tour.