Phone & Spear

A Yuta Anthropology

Miyarrka Media

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Yuta is the Yolngu word for new. Phone & Spear: A Yuta Anthropology is a project inspired by the gloriously cheeky and deeply meaningful audiovisual media made with and circulated by mobile phones by an extended Aboriginal family in northern Australia. Building on a ten-year collaboration by the community-based arts collective Miyarrka Media, the project is an experiment in the anthropology of co-creation. It is a multivoiced portrait of an Indigenous society using mobile phones inventively to affirm connections to kin and country amid the difficult and often devastating circumstances of contemporary remote Aboriginal life.

But this is not simply a book about Aboriginal art, mobile phones, and social renewal. If old anthropology understood its task as revealing one world to another, yuta anthropology is concerned with bringing different worlds into relationship. Following Yolngu social aesthetics—or what Miyarrka Media translate as “the law of feeling”—the book is a relational technology in its own right: an object that combines colour, pattern, and story to bring once distant worlds into new sensuously mediated connections.

Phone & Spear is a uniquely powerful work of anthropology in and through art practice. Few works expand the depth and breadth of collaboration to produce such revelation and pleasure. Fewer still are as affecting, poignant, and downright enjoyable. Bravo!

 Steven Feld, School for Advanced Research

Miyarrka Media

Miyarrka Media is an Indigenous arts collective in northern Australia, led by Dhalwangu elder Paul Gurrumuruwuy and visual anthropologist Jennifer Deger, who has collaborated on Yolngu media projects for more than twenty-five years. Their work has been screened and exhibited in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Taiwan. Recent projects include the films Ringtone and Manapanmirrin Christmas Spirit and the exhibitions Christmas Birrimbirr, Gapuwiyak Calling, and Warwuyu (Worry).