Yolŋu Studies Livestream Lecture Series

Lecture 34: Dhapi - an initiate and discipline.

Lecture link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2047566/events/1840804/videos/63545105

[Watched in the Sir Roland Wilson Building, ANU, 6pm Wednesday, November 26th 2014]

In this lecture Ṉäkarrma speaks about aspects of the Dhapi ceremony and the difference between boys and girls ceremonies.

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This week we're talking about discipline or the raypirri. Raypirri ga Rum'rum ga Mirriri. These are rom that takes part when we start participating in Yolŋu law. A young child, whether its a boy or a girl, they undergo circumcision ceremony through their stages of their life as they grow older, and through that it takes Raypirri - which is the discipline; They start to have avoidance, Rum'rum or respect for members in the family, members in the clan ... people that they have really high respect to ...
I'm going to be talking about ... a boys circumcision ceremony which is called a Dhapi and the childhood days. I can briefly fill in ... about girls... when they participate in life when they start to grow from young girls ...
As boys at the ages of 9 to 10, 11 - between that time they start to take up in circumcision - Dhapi ceremony - for boys... At the same time young girls are being separated away ... when parents ga grandparents ... (ŋathi ga märi are the mother's parents ... märi'mu ga momu are the father's parents) - they start to make up decisions, they start to participate and start looking at a young child ... when they're young kids ... you can't see the difference whether they are a boy or a girl ... in the distance, but when the boys start to become boys and the child becomes a young girl there is separation.
Yapa - young girls they stay at home with ... the grandparents. The young boys they start to ... take part with young men or the elders - that's when the Dhapi ceremony starts to come in ...
[The young boys about to participate in the Dhapi ceremony] ... they are being separated from young girls. Normally in Yolŋu culture its grandparents who decide and say "ok, you no longer need to sit with your yapa" ... sisters and brothers we start to separate ... and here [indicating sacred dilly bags in photos of Dhapi participants] are powerful mechanisms if you like, a powerful way of determining that it is done through law ... the separation of sisters from their brothers starts when they are young ... they undergo through these sacred items (sacred dilly bags ... and that sounds of the clapstick, the sounds of senior elders singing songs of the land of respect, culture identity) ... sinks into their mind to teach them they are on the journey to become the leaders of the community, the leaders in the clan and that's what they are doing now. ... Its a bit like baptism through into being ... manhood ... with water and red ochre. ... They are entering a stage where they need to be taught, trained and disciplined to start looking at ... a destiny of their future - where it lies - that's what Dhapi is about.
On the other hand its the grandparents - märi ga momu - they take care of the girls, they start to discipline the girls, men take and discipline the boys ... and at the same time ... father's mother ga mother's mother ... they have a major role ... in the discipline of the children whether they are boys or girls. And that's where discipline starts to take place.
... And through this they vow ... through their actions, through their minds they start to stop being boys that ... still ... want to do things in their own way ... they start to feel and know there are strict rules about approaching another community, approaching a certain people, members in their family ... there are rum'rum, ... in the family, in the clan ... the first thing where rum'rum takes place ... in the immediate family ... between a sister and a brother (wäwa ga yapa) ... that is when they start to not tease one another, not to sit close in front of a brother ... and they start to be separated ... while mum and dad keeps an eye ... mum and dad might be young but there are senior elders of the family that are grandparents and they are full of knowledge and they say it is not up to mum and dad to discipline their children ... grandparents, whether they are mother's parents or father's parents they both participate, take part and start disciplining this boy ... we start to keep a close eye and watch every move ... make sure they don't cross over border, make sure they don't make any mistakes and argue with people, fight with people or ... break laws that they hurt the feelings of the members in the family ... so everyone takes part.
... There was a question going on: Why do boys have big ceremony ... (this Dhapi ceremony goes on for a few days normally ...) ... and there's no wedding ceremony ... for young girls ... ? How come there is a wedding ceremony in Balanda system but not in Yolŋu system? And this is why: because we have a system called the Mirriri. Remember when I said before when mother and father are sitting ... they might have children ... they might have a brother and a sister in their family - there's wäwa ga yapa in that family and when they grow up they start to be separated ... when the baby girl becomes a young girl ... and when the young baby becomes a young boy, they are separated, they are not allowed to ... sit close ... facing towards each other, picking [on] one another, teasing one another, saying things about each other because there is avoidance and its called the Mirriri. When boys have circumcision ceremonies but women don't have wedding ceremony its because boys or the wäwa ... don't want to hear anything, any stories about their sister being promised or married off to their husbands because it starts at the family circle and they are separated. And when women are married off they are done secretly through they eyes of grandparents and the in-laws that they are promised to, and they are married off quietly. And after a while the brother (or the wäwa) ... notices that his sister is living with this man ... and they say "ok, that is ... yapa" - they must know obviously, they know that their yapa has been married off. So that's why there are no wedding ceremonies for women, they are married off quietly, secretly through the eyes and ears of the grandparents ... while the wäwa is busy living other life, learning until later on they realise that ... sister's husband is united with the yapa and he notices they are living together - ... and that's how they learn without having a big ceremony, because it is against, and its a really strict avoidance ... there are other avoidances in this family and we'll talk about them some other time
...the men has been singing a lot of knowledge into the ears and minds of young people - the words that are not very easy to find, and they receive songs that ... only knowledge gives us, and they are discipline songs, and they are discipline ceremonies that we sing about towards the minds of making the mature ... men
Mind you we don't talk too much about women being taken through ... ceremony, through discipline ... because ... of those avoidances of the Mirriri and Rum'rum but young men - we're allowed to talk about young men, but women, yapa, sisters - there are lots of ... ways that they are to be avoided and most of them are very very strict and private that we don't want to talk about in public ... like a yapa (a sister) going off to have a shower does it privately, going into a marriage it is done privately.
So and that's how Dhapi Raypirri ceremonies are conducted in Yolŋu culture ... when the boys are taken on to country ... they learn to survive ... after the ceremony they are being taken away and they must stay there with senior elders ... taken away from the custody of their parents they must stay until the scars have of the circumcision are gone ... and that takes few months ... and people normally used to live in the bush ... mum and dad stay back home while the young boys are ... taken out, taken onto places where they learn discipline and respect. Their guardians ... are ... the senior elders. ... Yo - that's what happens in Dhapi ceremonies.
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