Performance costume, 'Yirrkala (Arnhem Land) Male', fabric, designed by Jennifer Irwin, made in the Costume Ceremonies Workshop, Redfern, and Yirrkala, Arnhem Land, used in Opening Ceremony of Olympic Games, Sydney, 2000
The 'Yirrkala (Arnhem Land)' male costume was designed by Jennifer Irwin and manufactured in multiple copies in the Ceremonies Costume Workshop. The costume consists of a yellow 'naga'. The costume was worn by men from Yirrkala in the Awakenings segment of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. Yirrkala is located on the Gove Peninsula at the north east tip of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. The settlement is located on Yolngu land.
This costume provides a basic shape over which ceremonial makeup was applied by the individual dancers. Dancers also added their own traditional ceremonial decorations including headbands, waist belts, ankle and arm pieces and body paint. The yellow colour of the naga is of no significance
The Opening ceremony Context
The Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games comprised three major sections: mandatory formalities and protocol sections, the cultural display and the entrance of the athletes.
Within the cultural display there were eight sections: Welcome, Deep Sea Dreaming, Awakening, Fire, Nature, Tin Symphony, Arrivals and Eternity. The Awakenings segment followed the Deep Sea Dreaming segment and pays homage to the indigenous peoples of Australia. The segment was directed by Stephen Page and Rhoda Roberts and features dancers from various indigenous groups throughout Australia, including dancers from the Eora nation.
The Opening Ceremony Program states: Djakapurra Munyarryun, the songman, calls the new generation of spirits. The white ochre spirits are drawn to the heartbeat of the land by the Central Desert women. Their 'Chant of the Seven Sisters Dance' births the s\ceremony. As ochre fills the air, dancers from Arnhem land perform the 'Flag Welcome Song', which welcomed the Macassan traders at least four centuries ago. Torres Strait islanders arrive: the Eora nation group welcomes and plays host. All gather around drums of burning eucalyptus leaves, rekindling and cleansing this stadium on Daruk land. The Gjorn Gjorn, huge spirits from the Kimberly Ranges, hover. As the clans unite, they birth the giant Wandjina - ancestral creation spirit and lawmaker.
The Awakenings segment was a collaboration involving the culture, music, dance and traditional costumes of indigenous peoples throughout Australia. The design of the costumes embraced both traditional dress and modern dance costume.
In this section of the Awakenings segment Arnhem Land was represented by the communities of Yirrkala, Ramingining, Maningrida and Numbulwar.
Jennifer Irwin (born Sydney 1958) has designed costumes for numerous Australian dance and theatre productions. Her designs for dance have been seen on stage in 24 countries. She has designed costumes for over 25 works by the Sydney Dance Company and has worked extensively with director and choreographer Stephen Page on his productions for the Bangarra Dance Theatre and the Australian Ballet. Also with Stephen Page, Irwin designed costumes for the Opening Ceremony for the Festival of the Dreaming (1998) and for Tubowgule - the Opening Ceremony for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival. Irwin also designed the costumes for the Official Ceremony for the Centenary of Federation on 1 January 2001.
Jennifer Irwin's many costume design commissions for dramatic works include collaborations with directors Gale Edwards and Marion Potts for the Sydney Theatre Company and with Neil Armfield for Company B at the Belvoir St Theatre.
Irwin was awarded a Theatre Board (Australia Council) grant to study scenic design at La Scala Opera in Milan, Italy.
Her designs for the Awakenings section of the Opening Ceremony demonstrate her unique talent of infusing contemporary, cutting edge design with sensitivity and an understanding of dance, movement and cultural significance.