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WR Thomas, A South Australian Corroboree, 1864, Art Gallery of South Australia

A corroboree is an event where Australian Aboriginals interact with the Dreamtime through dance, music and costume. "Their bodies painted in different ways, and they wore various adornments, which were not used every day."[1] The word corroboree was coined by the European settlers of Australia in imitation of an east coast local Aboriginal Australian word caribberie.[what language is this?]

Corroboree, a ballet performance based on the corroboree

In the northwest of Australia, corroboree is a generic word to define theatrical practices as different from ceremony. Whether it be public or private, ceremony is for invited guests. There are other generic words to describe traditional public performances: juju and kobbakobba[what language is this?] for example. In the Pilbara, corroborees are yanda or jalarra.[what language is this?] Across the Kimberley the word junba[what language is this?] is often used to refer to a range of traditional performances and ceremonies.

Corroboree and ceremony are strongly connected but different. In the 1930s Adolphus Elkin wrote of a public pan-Aboriginal dancing "tradition of individual gifts, skill, and ownership" as distinct from the customary practices of appropriate elders guiding initiation and other ritual practices.[2] Corroborees are open performances in which everyone may participate taking into consideration that the songs and dances are highly structured requiring a great deal of knowledge and skill to perform.

Corroboree is a generic word to explain different genres of performance which in the northwest of Australia include balga, wangga, lirrga, junba, Bardi Ilma and many more. Throughout Australia the word corroboree embraces songs, dances, rallies and meetings of various kinds. In the past a corroboree has been inclusive of sporting events and other forms of skill display. It is an appropriated English word that has been reappropriated to explain a practice that is different from ceremony and more widely inclusive than theatre or opera.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Petrie, C.C. "Tom Petrie's Reminiscences of Early Queensland". Retrieved 27 November 2009.
  2. ^ Elkin, A. P. 1938. The Australian Aborigines : how to understand them. Sydney, N.S.W.: Angus & Robertson
  3. ^ Sweeney, D. 2008. "Masked Corroborees of the Northwest" DVD 47 min. Australia: ANU, Ph.D.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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