Tracking Anmatyerr Law

All I care about is recording all of this for the next generations.

– Michael Tommy Pengart, Anmatyerr elder

Anengkerr Anmatyerr Ingkanenty is a project celebrating the unique ceremonial, language and artistic traditions of the Anmatyerr people.

Instigated by male elders and young men from the community of Laramba, 200kms north of Alice Springs in Central Australia, the Ingkanenty project’s aim has been to ‘track down’ Anmatyerr cultural materials in museums and record present day Anmatyerr ceremonial Law.

Men from across the generations have come together learn from angerr-pat (senior leaders) to interpret museum collections and rehearse local ceremonial practices unique to Anmatyerr Country. Ingkantety is to follow in the footsteps of Anmatyerr ancestors to keep their Law going.

This website showcases just some of our work on Anmatyerr language, ceremony and knowledge of Country.

Michael Pengart Tommy sings while men are painted up for the althart Rrwamperr (Possum dance).

The project has been focusing on the making of ceremonial shields and their decoration with specific ceremonial designs. Each shield’s design signifies a particular Mer (Country) and a major Anengkerr (ancestral story), but also has its own associated songs and dances. Workshops were held so that younger men could learn from elders about each shield, its design, song and performance. 


The shields were made according to traditional Anmatyerr ceremonial custom which insists that they are decorated while singing the relevant songs for the specific Country being represented. Following this, the connected sacred dances associated with each shield were performed and recorded. 


The recordings and the shields are now part of the Anmatyerr Cultural Materials collection housed at the Strehlow Research Centre in Alice Springs. This is the property of the Laramba community and is being safeguarded for future Anmatyerr generations.

The initial idea for Anengkerr Anmatyerr Ingkanenty was described by project 

co-ordinator Martin Hagan:

We want to bring all the old Anmatyerr ceremonial men together. There are only a handful who know deep Anmatyerr law. We want to record them explaining our different shield designs. We will film and photograph them teaching us as they paint and explain the shield designs, sing the connected songs, and teach us old althart (public) and tywerreng (sacred) dances. Some ceremonies are lwereny (strangers) because they haven’t been performed for many years. As a young man I have been involved in a lot of ceremonies and I see every year a decline in knowledge of our designs. That’s why it is urgent for us to perform and record these designs, songs, and stories as soon as possible.

– Martin Hagan, Laramba Community Member

The project attracted over 70 Anmatyerr men from Laramba and the nearby Anmatyerr communities of Mer Ywerternt (6 Mile), Alyuen (Aileron) and Ulem (Mt. Allan).

Men have passed on the knowledge required to make ceremonial shields from local beanwood timber, taught each other different ways of decorating shields, and practiced the making of totemic designs on the shields that have been inherited from father to son. A number the shield designs and ceremonies had not been shared since the 1990s or earlier.


This website has been developed with support from the Australian Government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts Program. The project is also supported by Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (Deakin University) and the Australian Research Council (Grant DE220100206).