Yolŋu Studies Livestream Lecture Series

Lecture 04: Gurruṯu ("kinship")

Lecture link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2047566/events/1840804/videos/14785271

[Watched at the Ethel Tory Centre, ANU, 6pm Wednesday, 18th December 2013]

In this lecture Yiŋiya gave an introduction to the gurruṯu ("kinship") system.

"Today we're looking at going further into gurruṯu... or the relationship between people [and] the land, the relationship between land and land, the relationship between animal and animal, whatever was created. Everyone is related as yothu-yindi, märi-gutharra"
"...and it is one big family whether its people and the storm cloud out there, its related. It depends [on] the direction where its coming from and what it is. It can be a Dhuwa or a Yirritja - two moities... and that's how people are related through this word gurruṯu... and the animals, the plants, the season, the direction, in 360 degree[s] of direction, to the north to the south, to the west, to the east are all related, are Dhuwa and Yirritja.
"For instance in the North direction is a Yirritja direction, towards the east (bulunu)... is a Dhuwa direction."
"When land was created, they were given moiety, of ... Dhuwa or Yirritja... mälk [is] not necessary for a land [or] for a country but sometimes animals - just to make friends or jokes with them, if you're related to them you can give them mälk but they're not necessary... [but] gurruṯu, every land, every people, every animal creation that was created up here in North East Arnhem Land ... all have gurruṯu."
"People are related through the yothu-yindi märi-gutharra waku-yapa relationship, that is the gurruṯu that lives on this land [and] how people relate to one another, how people relate to the sea out there, how people relate to the wind out there, the stars, the sun, the clouds, they are all part of the universe, all part of this yothu yindi gurruṯu... that we belong to up here."
[For example] "I can be part of that tree... [or]... the image of that black cockatoo is a dhuwa, a ŋaṯili - that can be me, it is in this yothu-yindi märi-gutharra system."
"Yindi is the mother/motherland... the yothu are the people that call this land... as their ŋäṉḏi, as their mother (... and they also can use the word yindi)... there's a relationship here between yothu and yindi."
"Over here [showing picture] is the offspring of the yothu or your daughters offspring, its the relationship between the grandmother and her grandchildren... whether its a land that relates to people as their grandmother and the land calls these group of people its gutharra, its gutharra mob, that's where the märi-gutharra relation comes from."
"...say the mother has a direct child and she's a daughter and that daughter, your daughter has a child over here and its called a gutharra, you call... gutharra which is your grand-daughter, and your grand-daughter has a child which is, which she calls waku and that in relation to you is a great-grand-daughter and down here, your great-grand-daughter has a child, and she has a child which is this lot over here and they are related to you as yapa, they call you yapa which is great-great-grandchildren... and that's where this wording here, the yothu-yindi, märi-gutharra comes from... not trying to confuse you all but this is just something that we're going through and I'm sure you can always go back, you can always send emails and learn from a bit further on where you're not clear and not understanding it well. But its just a system that we're going through at the moment and you can always go back and help you out more if you're not very very clear on things but this is the yolŋu governance if you like... the yirralka or the country, the land, of the yolŋu rom, the yolŋu culture, how we all bind together as one big family."
[After explaining the "gurruṯu" of his personal family relationships (wife, daughter, grand-son) in terms of Dhuwa, Yirritja, ŋäṉḏi, waku etc...] "We relate to the land, the animals, the land, the country, the images... are all related as Dhuwa Yirritja, all related as yothu-yindi, märi-gutharra - [the] same as how it is here [indicating his personal family relations (father, daughter and grandchild)]... and the relationship comes from within a family line [that's] how you relate to anything on land. Because they [your family] belong to the totems which we'll be hopefully sometime in the future... we might be going through and looking at..."
"Here is a dolphin totem [showing picture of dolphin], it is a Dhuwa and it is my totem, my waŋarr... I can also relate to my totems (my waŋarr) in this case its a dolphin. And the water that it lives in can also be a Dhuwa country on my land... and the water is part of me, the dolphin is part of me, my dreaming, my songs that I sing about [and] dance."
"Even the clouds in the scenery can always be related to me if I'm looking in a Dhuwa direction, if I'm talking about an environment that is Dhuwa and that was created by my ancestor."
"...and it all relates... that the water, the land, the country is part of me..."
"These giant ant hills are also Dhuwa which I sing about. I can call this and look at it as my image. When I look at the giant ant hill (djakuḻuḻu) I can always turn back and say 'that's me, that is me'. I sing about it. The ancestors that created this land created the djakuḻuḻu and gave me the songlines that I sing about. The environment, the bush the trees, around here... some of them are Yirritja, some trees are Dhuwa, but the djakuḻuḻu are all Dhuwa."
"Sometimes some yolŋu can relate to my ancestral dreaming, my djakuḻuḻu as yothu-yindi märi-gutharra... they can relate it as ŋäṉḏi [mum], or they can relate to the buḻanybirr [porpoise] as yapa, or märi if they are in the same moiety... that's just saying as family yolŋu relationships are the same as how we relate to land, to the environment to the universe, the stars up there, they've all been given songs [and] ceremonies [and] titles of what they are."
"Here is another totem [showing picture of men holding a giant children's python], and this time everybody is related... here we've got what we call a gurruṯu'mirri mala... everybody in this scenery [has] a special relationship... amongst the yolŋu themselves [they] are yothu-yindi märi-gutharra and they are holding on to a big childrens python... which is [called] a wititj... and the family here are yothu yindi of the Birritjama tribe, the Birritjama... call themselves the wititj and this is their waŋarr... also my sister over that way staying at Birritjimi, she also has this wititj as a totem... its a totem for Gälpu clans and its a totem for the Birritjama clans... so there [have] two different clans but they have [the] same thing in common - the wititj in their songs and ceromonies... they sing about one another and they relate to one another in that everybody, (Dhuwa and Yirritja) in the Gälpu Dhuwa Yirritja yothu-yindi märi-gutharra relationships relates and have same thing in common with the Birritjama Dhuwa Yirritja yothu-yindi märi-gutharra relationship."
"[The] woman... here [indicating woman in photo near the snake] ... calls the wititj (this python) her ŋäṉḏi [mum]. Wititj is a Dhuwa and the Birritjama clan that has the wititj as a totem are Dhuwa. Gälpu clan is a Dhuwa and the wititj python is a Dhuwa also, so they... have [the] same in common through that ceremony linkage. Every Dhuwa has the same ceremony linkage to another Dhuwa clan, say the Birritjama and the Gälpu, they must be either Dhuwa or Yirritja, in this case they are Dhuwa, because they have [the] same thing in common, they must be Dhuwa. You cannot have Dhuwa and Yirritja and have [the] same songs in common, it doesn't work that way."
"And these boys here [indicating boys in the photo holding the snake] are related to the wititj as märi-gutharra, she [indicating a woman in the photo] is related... as yothu-yindi, and over here [indicating someone else] is a waku-waṯaŋu which is the further great-great-grandchildren family line who relate to the wititj as waku, and so on these children are all related in that gurruṯu."
"This is where the gurruṯu'mirri comes in, whether... we are talking about the big thunderstorm cloud which we call the wolma and everybody can relate it as yothu-yindi märi-gutharra waku-yapa or with the dolphin that can be yothu-yindi märi-gutharra as related back down in that family line..."
"I'd like to play just a short section [of video that shows]... how happy they are and how they want to sit down and relate together... [video shows boys handling a big children's python]... the boys coming in respecting it, the snake respects them and they respect the python... and everybody are joined together as one big family not knowing that is an animal but it is a totem that they belong to, a totem that they relate to ... and so people can relate to animals as they are related to yolŋu [people]."
"I come from a Djambarrpuŋu clan which I have ... different songs [and] ceremonies to which I can relate to this python [and the] Gälpu [clan and] the Birritjama as märi (märi-gutharra relationship) but someone else, another Djambarrpuŋu or a clan that sings about these environment, the dolphin song, we have another common song, say Djambarrpuŋu and the Djapu another clan or Djambarrpuŋu and the Gapiyŋ[?] clan, the Ganambirr clan that have [the] same things in common and we can be called yapa ga [and] märi and thats how the systems finishes and thats how the story lies that every country we belong to... every clan [is] all related to us as yothu-yindi märi-gutharrayothu-yindi märi-gutharra relationship between land, animals, people, ... animals against animals, people against people, land against animals... water, rocks, reefs, everything that was created here in Arnhem Land all goes up to be that yothu-yindi märi-gutharra in that relationship."
Lecture series home