Masked corroborees of the northwest - ‘stand up in my head’

Dominique Sweeney

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In northwest Australia a range of corroborees incorporate the use of masks. These and other performance objects connect bodies to country, cultural knowledge and ancestors. They also reaffirm the political status of people in their country. My thesis is in two parts: making a digital video (DV) about the way these masks come into being and how they are used; and this written thesis analysing the groundwork process involved in making the DV. The Ngarinyin, Narinyman and Worla people of northwest Australia are peoples with whom I have concentrated my research and video documentation concerning the animation of Wunggurr (RainbowSerpent) and Ngarranggarni, the cosmological entirety, through performance. Masking in these corroborees is a process of manifestation when the boundary between the body of a performer and the landscape/cosmos/ancestor become one. Performances elicit questions about relationships to country, cultural knowledge, and with the dead. Do performances mean the same when performed away from their country of origin at national and international festivals? Are the conceptual categories 'performance' and 'mask' sufficient to describe what is happening in these circumstances? What are the implications for Performance Studies in looking more deeply into these performances? It is through my growing understanding and representation of the contemporary circumstances surrounding the people involved in the creation and preparation of corroborees, that this thesis explores.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Australian National University
  • Morphy, Howard, Principal Supervisor, External person
  • Lo, Jacqueline, Principal Supervisor, External person
  • Kildea, Gary, Principal Supervisor, External person
  • McDougall, David, Principal Supervisor, External person
  • Rumsey, Alan, Principal Supervisor, External person
  • Redmond, Anthony, Advisor, External person
  • Dwyer, Paul, Advisor, External person
Award date14 Jul 2010
Place of PublicationCanberra
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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