Yolŋu Studies Livestream Lecture Series

Lecture 03: Mälk ("skin name")

Lecture link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2047566/events/1840804/videos/14209748

[Watched 6pm Wednesday, 27th November 2013]

In this lecture Yiŋiya gave an introduction to the Dhuwa and Yirritja moiety system, the mälk ("skin name") system and gurruṯu ("kinship") system. Our group agreed that the various systems and their interrelations are complex!

"When the land was created they were given names and the moiety... that is the Dhuwa and the Yirritja."
"People... living... here in Arnhem Land... are divided into two moieties: the Dhuwa and the Yirritja moieties"
"and also everyone are related as Yothu yindi, Märi gutharra and waku yapa... Yothu Yindi is a well known... [name] if you like... we've known about the well known band that lived up here in Arnhem Land around Gove or in Yirrkala called the Yothu Yindi band. Yothu Yindi band is a mother and child. Yothu means 'a child' and Yindi means 'a big' or 'a mother'. Yindi means 'large', 'big', or 'a mother'... this word formation, the Yothu yindi it means 'a mother and child' or 'child and mother'... "
"Märi gutharra goes down a bit further... [it] is a grandmother and a grandchild relationship. Mari is 'a grandmother' and gutharra is 'a grandchild'. Your daughters children are related to you as gutharra.
"Waku yapa is going down a bit further... a great great grandchildren if you like who relate to you as waku and you relate to them as yapa."
"I know we don't have much time to try and explain and teach you everything but this is what we coming across... it takes a long time before you understand about yothu yindi, märi gutharra... its taken me a long time to be who I am, so don't worry you're not missing out on anything, we can always come back and clarify it until you know, until you really understand how people, how land, how songs and ceremonies, about the Dhuwa/Yirritja moieties, Yothu yindi, Märi gutharra, waku yapa system works. And its not that we expect you to learn it right now today, it takes a long time... its very very complicated and it takes a long long time before you can learn my system. And vice versa, it takes a long time to understand how Balanda system works."
Mälk and Marriage: " and that's how things should be... you should never ever marry someone from Dhuwa moiety to someone... of a Dhuwa moiety as well - it is strictly against Yolŋu culture and it is... just... those people just shouldn't exist... and it makes a shameful job in the community when... a Dhuwa male marries a Dhuwa female... it is just strictly prohibited... it should never never happen. [A] Dhuwa male always marries a Yirritja female."
"Sometimes land ga [and] Yolŋu can be married ok... [for example]... that land there belongs to my waku's mob, my yothu's mob over here, then I can always call them Yothu, my waku country. I am a Yolŋu the land over there belongs to my waku's mob... in a way I can be promised to it, in a way I am married to it, in a way I have a responsibility to look after it."
"... when we talk about a country, the government always come along [and] mining company and people who want come and talk to... who is the land owner for this country. Really the land owner itself - this fella here [pointing to Bärpurru on the diagram] don't own this bit of country, the language, song, ceremonies by itself, there are other people, there are other relatives around it, the surrounding relatives the Gurruṯu'mirri if you like, people who are related they all have join in and say 'we all put a lot of effort, we all put a lot of taking-care-of-this-country, the songs and ceremonies'. Our system works, so there is never always one group of people that owns the land, its always the yothu yindi, märi gutharra"
"...at the end of... two semesters we want you be able to say "Yothi yindi, Märi gutharra, waku yapa" is the whole of body of Yolŋu culture that all care for one another - live in the land, the land are related between land and land, between Yolŋu ga [and] land, between Yolŋu and water, between Yolŋu ga [and] the creators are all related as Yothu yindi, märi gutharra, waku yapa."
Giving an example of how some aspects of the Mälk system work: "Gammaraŋ always marries someone from Baŋaditjan or Gutjan... ga the child we have... she has the same moiety as the father, she belongs to the same clan, the tribe, the clan-nation and she speaks the same language as the father: Dhuwa"
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