Tjapukai are indigenous rainforest tribes of Tropical North Queensland, Australia. A few decades ago, the community was almost lost, and their language was close to extinction as less than a handful spoke it. That’s when efforts to revive their culture through theatre were made. A tiny theatre, born in the basement of a shopping mall in 1987, into the sprawling Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
Today, the park’s cultural tours relive and replay the Tjapukai legends, customs and perform old ceremonies. It is spread across 25 acres of tribal land in Caravonica, a suburb of Cairns, on the foothills of the Rainforest Mountains. We arrived for the ‘Tjapukai by night’ programme. A well-lit retail gallery in the middle of the forest and walls of the store are lined with Aboriginal art stand out. There are canvasses with figures of lizards, murals sporting kangaroos and other creations inspired by nature. The tribesmen, dressed in sarongs, with their bare upper bodies painted in stripes and rustic jewellery then lead the way to the museum .
The dimly lit museum holds relics from their past, with traditional music in the background. A tribesman studies my face, dips his fingers in paint and paints my face in black and white With this ritual, I look the part.
We’re now treated to the tunes of the Didgeridoo —one of the oldest wind instruments invented — followed by a storytelling session where the legends of yore were dramatised in piercing sound of thunder, a hint of lightening and some deep themes.
Navigation to the Tjapukai Park
Cairns is a regional city in North Queensland. The best way to get there from India is to fly into Brisbane and thereafter hop on a domestic flight.
The Tjapukai Park is just a 15-minute drive from the city centre in Cairns. They also have a ‘Tjapukai by day’ which includes live performances, but instead of the fire-making ritual there’s a talk on bush foods.