Yolŋu Studies Livestream Lecture Series

Lecture 27: Dharapul - funerals and sacred business

Part 1 lecture link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2047566/events/1840804/videos/51462284

Part 2 lecture link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2047566/events/1840804/videos/51463764

[Watched at the Ethel Tory Centre, ANU, 6pm Wednesday, May 28th 2014]

In this lecture Ṉäkarrma talks about the concept of dharapul (sacred or restricted areas after someone has died).

"We've been talking about the areas of dharapul (funeral ceremony areas) ... where there's a funeral like so [indicating picture of sacred funeral ceremony ground and shelter] we always need to have people who are responsible, who look(s) after the areas, such as people who walk(s) around funeral grounds all the time like so [indicating picture of people painted with red ochre with caption 'people living in the funeral grounds must be painted in red ochre'] or living within funeral areas must always be painted in red ochre - that is to purify ... purify of their existence as they walk out to talk to or share a cup or share a smoke or share anything with a person that are in avoidance relationship with ... a deceased person. They must identify themselves in colours of ochre as such ..."
"Those people who handle a body and live within that body are called Goŋ-Jok ... like these guys here [indicating picture of men painted with red ochre with caption 'Goŋ-Jok, these people are the ones that handle the body and must stay in the area'] are painted in red ochre ..."
"Often you see people who have white ochre ... if they are painted with that, that talks about that there is a ceremony, a ceremony going on, or there is a ... funeral ceremony being held so both Dhuwa and Yirritja can use white ochre ... "
"...if there is a body, the people responsible handling and living within the body area must always be painted in red ochre."
"These two are the aunties or mukul relationship to the deceased person here [indicating picture with two women] and they are allowed to live around there ... because they lived with ... in the same room, same house, same shelter where the body is kept - they must always be painted in red ochre to purify themselves that they offend any avoidance system of law in Yolŋu culture."
"... those guys are being painted [indicating picture of men painted with red ochre], especially on the arm ... with red ochre ... when they having contact with a coffin (nowadays) living with a coffin or handling of the body, a body bag ..."
"... in Yolŋu culture when someone dies ... that body becomes a sacred object and must be moved from one place to another through songs and dances, through ceremonies ..."
"... that body now becomes a sacred object and everybody handling and in charge and controlling must be certain people who are authorised within that märi-gutharra yothu-yindi relationship within our Yolŋu culture."
"... so that's what happens in funeral ceremonies ... everybody's having a really fun ..."
"... red ochre is always used ... to lift restrictions. If there was a car, if there was a house, it must have a sign of red ochre that that house ... is a dharapul or a place of the deceased person. Nowadays if you see a car or a house, you'll always see red ochre along the side, like a band/arm-band running round the house or the trees around it ... it talks about dharapul, it talks about the significance that the person used to live there and now there was restrictions put on there ..."
"If you see a red ochre painted around within the house, within the car or within the belongings of the deceased person, that red ochre represents that restrictions have been lifted and that any members of the family within the community are able to go ahead and use that area, the car, or the house ... "
"Here everybody knows this is me [indicating picture of himself with caption: 'Yingiya (in red) Guyula changed name to Ṉäkarrma Guyula'],... but what happened here ... my family member ... that we have right here [turning the camera to show the house where the deceased's body is], that's the house there and that's the people doing ceremonies around there, in that house is the body of a person who was/has a name same as mine (with the 'y', 'i', 'n', 'g', 'i', 'y', 'a') but there's been a restriction put on that name for the time being because the person with the same name as mine has passed away ... so that's why ... most of you people can't use that name for the time being and ... I can be called by the name 'Ṉäkarrma' until further restrictions to be lifted and that time limit can be from this generation until ... this man he has a son and when that son grows older and has children ... and if that son of the deceased want to go back and he can use this name again on calling his son, so the grandson of the deceased can be renamed after this name, so it takes more than ... really about 20 to 25 years ... it takes 4 or 5 years maybe more before you can use that name again, so that's why I'm known as Ṉäkarrma for the time being, until further restrictions to be lifted ..."
"And that's why I have changed and be called 'Ṉäkarrma Guyula' instead of the other ... name because my family member here who passed away has the same name as me"
"When a person passes away their spirit goes back to the resting place of their country ... their home estates, into the waterhole, into the mountains, into the rock and are resting there or into an area ... when the spirit of that person, a recent deceased person their spirits are likely to be living within the area, so when you walk across the country or try and avoid to go through that country, only the authorised people are allowed to go and ... do the burn-offs ... maybe a year or two, but that area, the land, the estate of the deceased person must always be kept restricted ... nobody is to go there until a certain time, maybe a couple of years later.
These people who are authorised to do the burn-offs and ... start hunting ... as you can see here [showing picture of river-bank and people hunting with caption: 'Dharapul area has restrictions put on for a period of time until it is lifted by a authorised controlling body'] ... before everyone else goes hunting ... before people publicly go and do hunting for ... fresh water tortoise, lily bulbs, water lilies or fishing ... a certain family, right family goes and starts to do burn-offs, [they] start to do a bit of hunting and fishing and they start to lift restrictions by first catching fish [or] whatever is caught there in the billabong and that lifts the restrictions and then ... other people ... can go and start fishing and hunting again ...
Those restrictions are put on from the spirits of those deceased and they are called dharapul ... or they are called dawagumbul ... its not a place where they used to live but its an estate of where their spirits are and we've been arguing with the government, we've been arguing with a lot of people that the land is not given to us ... by choice because we want to go and live there and 'I'd like to buy that bit of area', that's my area ... even if a deceased person has never lived on this area ... but straight away through that birth ... when they are being conceived through their mother and their fathers spirits of that land ... automatically the spirits when they pass away it goes back to that land ... even if they haven't been there ...
So family members go and they start to ... lift the restrictions so that other people in public areas ... that are ... in an avoidance with the family member deceased can then go ahead and do hunting, fishing and shooting magpie geese, hunting wallabies, getting fresh water tortoise and so on ...
Sometimes a deceased person will have a totem ... and during that period ... bush tucker such as mud crabs can be a totem to the deceased ... so normally in Yolŋu culture we don't hunt, catch and eat their totem ... for the time being - a restriction there again is being put on until further notice where certain people goes and lifts restrictions again. In a way they go to, like so, they go to an area of mangroves instead and hunt and catch cook and eat mangrove worms or mudcrabs and that opens up, and then public publicly people can go through a custom people can go and hunt and catch mudcrabs or the totem it could be magpie geese, it could be fresh water tortoise it could be turtle, salt water turtle whatever people need to hunt they do it the right way when people lift restrictions of that bush tucker becomes sacred its been not prohibited but a restrictions been put on because in the animals, in the totems there are spirits of the deceased and must be purified in a way through right people so people can rehunt and eat bushtucker again.
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