Yolŋu Studies Livestream Lecture Series

Lecture 06: Ŋatha, warrakan, miyalk ga ḏirramu (Vegetables, meat, men and women)

Lecture link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2047566/events/1840804/videos/16560718

[Watched at the Ethel Tory Centre, ANU, 6pm Wednesday, 29th April 2014]

In this lecture Yiŋiya talks about bush tucker: vegetables (ŋatha), meat (warrakan), women (miyalk) and men (ḏirramu)

"Today's subject is ... bush tucker... Going bush, hunting ... normally involves ... avoidances ... [there is] ... brother [and] sister avoidance, [and] poison cousin avoidances and so that's why men normally go separately hunting and women and children normally go the other [way]. ... men normally go catch meat [and] women normally go and gather yams ..."
"There are men here walking off into the bush [indicating picture of men going hunting]... this man is a head hunter, they're going to get wallaby, kangaroo or buffalo or whatever meat they can catch. In the meantime women are out collecting ... fruit, berries, water lillies, bulbs, yams ... "
"... hunting in the swamp is like another kind of a supermarket ... [you're] going into a place where you get magpie geese, freshwater tortoise, longnecked tortoise, barramundi, crocodiles, water-lillies, certain species of reeds/roots, what we call räkay and other plenty of stuff, edible stuff ... "
"... women can go fishing as well with fishing lines and catch food, they don't not just go out and want to gather bush tucker they also want to hunt and catch whatever they can catch ... "
"In our culture, we are people that we share [with] one another, always share the catch, so sometimes if there's a big catch, one [person] catch[es] too many, they share it within the group ... they share it so ... everybody's got enough share when they go home."
"... at Yolŋu camp we don't say much, we don't talk too much about catches about what we've caught, but in balanda, I've learnt that we sit around [and] there's a lot of talks, ... [and] sometimes silly questions come up. One time I was asked "when you're out bush what do you have for lunch? What do you have for dinner?" And I said to this family "... fresh water tortoise, long-necked tortoise" and one of them say "but... poor thing! Wouldn't you save it, you wouldn't kill it and eat it would you? Why not keep it for a pet? Because its so precious, its poor thing and you feel sorry for it", but I said "What else could I do? That's the diet I've lived on all of my life and been raised on, that's the bush tucker I have a love, that's the bush tucker I have known. There's no pies out there, there's no KFC out there, I've never known KFC. Eating tortoise, freshwater fish is the only delicacy and diet I've been taught, and it works, I've grown big and strong and healthy ..."
"That's the finish of how it is caught, where to look for it, where to find it, how to catch it, how to prepare it, cook it and share it. Always shares with people. Equal shares so that people enjoy eating and you're all happy."
"During collection of bush tucker ... you also come up with ... [other] groceries ... out there you don't just eat meat ... there are other bush tucker['s] ... out in the swamp ... and here we are looking at water lillies ... i've been taught ... that when you have a flu or cold that you should ... go out and have sufficient ... water lily stems ... that can help you get over your cold, that can help you get over your flu..."
"...also there are roots that you can take home and prepare it and cook it, its like a potato, its like a ... carrot."
"Unlike when you sit on a table and there's fruit and vegies, celeries, meat, chicken, fish whatever the choices ... instead you go and find them bit by bit."
"Here you can also go out as a family [indicating picture of family hunting]: mum, dad, children and family members of the camp can come along with you and hunt together ... "
"And here we are [indicating picture of a recently caught shark] ... they caught a baby shark which is eatable, and juvenile sharks are very, very good tasting [and are a] favourite delicacy ... in Yolŋu life."
"... the stingray is now being prepared [showing picture of stingray being prepared], we cut it open at the belly area and ... the liver ... when young stingray is caught at a certain time, at a certain season when it is right to go and be hunted, the liver looks like this [showing picture]. And it is called the djukurr, or the fat. and we mix it up with the meat of the stingray that we prepare and the green stuff which is called the mulkaminy[?] is taken out of the liver as well."
"Normally [preparing stingray to eat] you would make a big fire ... and just bury it in the hot coals as you would do to when you're cooking a damper, but here [indicating picture of stingray's cooking in a pot] we've learnt smart ways and now use pots and pans, where we just put them in one go, five, six, seven stringray's in one go, put them in a pot and cook them that way ... you save a lot of time, [its] quicker, and it doesn't get burnt on the coals, rather it gets cooked properly."
"Stringray ... has some kind of poison that can give you a bit of a headache so we have been taught in our custom, Yolŋu custom, that we always rinse the meat after taking it out of the sorting it from the bones and skin, and then we pour some cold water, fresh water into a salt water and then mixes it, so the mixture is not too much of a salty or too fresh and it has to have a bit of a fishy taste in it, and all those three all work together. Not too much salty, not too much fresh, just right, half of each and has to have a bit of that fishy taste to make it really taste lovely."
"Here a young fella is having a sample [of stringray] ... having the taste of what it tastes like and he says 'wakaray dhapirrk!' [which] means he's very, very delighted ... wakaray dhapirrk is just a word children use for manymak, better than manymak, 'manymak plus' if you like."
"Favourite of all? They all favourite[s]. Whether its the long-necked tortoise ... or the stingray ... or turtle meat, wallabies, bush turkey, whatever ..."
"So everything is shared around the camp, everything is shared around the community, people go out and they catch and that's where Yolŋu community out here, Yolŋu families learn and come with the and have lived through our culture about sharing, giving, sharing, not always asking, but have learnt through a way of life that we learnt to serve all the time, learn to share and help one another, so equal shares are being shared around the community and that's what Yolŋu community, Yolŋu family is all about."
"Don't you ever say to me when I come out to you and say "why do you eat stingray?" that's a silly question, but I can cope now [smiling] ... It makes me very, very embarrassed when people say 'well, why do you eat tortoise or emu or the turtle? Aren't they your totem?' [Well] That is the diet we live by and that is how we stay healthy, by eating bush-tucker"
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