Yolŋu Studies Livestream Lecture Series

Lecture 05: Waŋarr, warrakan ga dharpa (Totems, animals and trees)

Lecture link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2047566/events/1840804/videos/15961094

[Watched at the Ethel Tory Centre, ANU, 6pm Wednesday, 2nd April 2014]

In this lecture Yiŋiya talks about waŋgarr - "ancestors", "images" or "totems".

"Here [showing photo of a pandanus tree] the pandanus is a Dhuwa and it is also images of the ancestral beings which came and created this land... here we are talking about this being an image."
"There are also waŋarr in bulanybirr [dolphin]... it is a Dhuwa ... it can be used for food, hunted and killed ... to be used for food supply but not to be treated in a manner that hurts people, that hurts [the] feelings of [people] that have the same feelings ... "
"... we say 'the images of the dolphin is me... that is the image of me and I am the image of the dolphins... it is me ...' ... and it is OK that we can use/kill a dolphin for food supply and it is ... part of the miyapunu, the seafood with the turtle ... that we can use [and] our people have lived by [along with] dugongs and turtles, this can also be an eatable tucker ..."
"Here is another warrakan [showing picture of a children's python]... a reptile in this case... it is a totem, a Dhuwa totem (wititj its called up here). Last week I said it belongs to some clan nations who have the same songs and connection with the totem of the serpent of this children's python. [It] all depends which way he travelled and who has connections with it. For example last session I mentioned about the Galpu clan ... my yapa [sister] who is over at Birrijimi and her clan they sing and dance about the wititj ceremony ... to most of us it is in [the] food chain that we have eaten and hunted ... in this case [the python is] a relation to me as märi or the grandmother's clan ... we can hunt and eat some certain snakes ... the python, the king brown ... the file snake ... they are all in food chains and they are totems. We relate to them they are our relatives and we have good relationship with them and also they can be used for food ... food as we live by for many centuries."
"Here is another ... totem [showing picture of mangrove worms] related called a ḻatjin or mangrove worms ... its [a] nourishing and delicacy of our food [and] its related to me as waku ... in the same relation as my sisters children ... it can be gathered hunted and caught with an axe, just chop off the tree and and get some ḻatjin and feed on them in a respectful manner ... that you don't hurt the feelings of the people who belongs to... [its] not just the people of whom the totem belongs to but we are all related as the yothu-yindi ... märi-gutharra waku-yapa - in that big governance of the culture of the people that we live by. [The ḻatjin] its in a moiety of the Yirritja people. They sing and dance and tell stories of what it is."
"Here's a bark coming off ... a gaḏayka or the stringy bark tree. That also is the image of people, [the] image of the same people if you like who sing about gaḏayka ... people are related to it, people have lived by it and taken the bark off, like over here you can see... a bark hut that is made during [the] wet season ... and it can be used for shelters during the wet season."
"That bark ... it is in the Dhuwa moiety because a Dhuwa ancestral creator being came through and claimed the tree of the gaḏayka ..."
"... you don't just push everything down or kill a snake or kill animals ... to make ... fun out of it because you all care about it, it is as if you are killing your own family, as if you were hurting your own family ... when you push that tree down, a group of trees with a bulldozer or chop 'em down, burn 'em down and try and destroy trees, you feel hurt because it is your own family."
"Everything, ... [the] littlest blowfly - that has songs, [the] blowfly belongs to a clan, we sing about it, and it is a totem, although they are a nuisance, but we sing about them during ceremonies and they are well-respected ... "
"The mosquitoes, some people have them ... as their totems. Even though they might be ... really pesty or hurting you ... Whether they are pestering you or hurting you, you still treat them as your own family, they're still in that yothu-yindi, märi-gutharra, waku-yapa chain ..."
"The clouds up there, they are also related, they are also totems... When you're sitting on the beach or on the hill looking out towards the sea, towards the ocean you see little fluffy white snow-like clouds just floating on the edge of the horizon - as far as that, you are still related to that cloud ... we still call it wäwa [brother], waku [son], märi [grandmother] ... I can sit here and look towards the north direction and see clouds way up there ... because I'm a Dhuwa in that direction (ḻuŋgurrma) or the north its related to me ... and that cloud over there can be called ŋäṉḏi [mum]. If I sit here [and] look at the westerly clouds ... or ... the westerly winds blowing, its my märi [grandmother] because my grandmothers mob that's their totem and they sing about it... "
"And towards the east ... that's where I belong to ... and I call myself the bulunu [east] rain, that is part of me, that is me, that is my totem, so I sing about it and I dance about it and people around me, relatives, they are all related towards that."
"... we are all related ... even the mud, even the mud itself... you can't say swear at the mud or say 'I don't like this' and say all sorts of things about it because you can hurt the feelings of people"
" ... if you ... started painting on trees, spilling paint on ground, on the mud, that still hurts people, the feelings of people. Everything around here, everything in the bush, whether they be plants, grass, green frogs, snakes, some little bugs that we sing about and dance about are always to be treated as your own relative, treated as Dhuwa Yirritja, treated as a totem, a waŋarr that we all sing and dance about."
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