The ancestral Djaŋ’kawu Sisters are travelling from Rirratjiŋu country at Yalaŋbarra on the east Arnhem Land mainland, to the Djapu clan lands further south, where they sing with biḻma (clapsticks) and yiḏaki (didgeridoo). They then travel west, first to the Ḏäṯiwuy clan lands and then on to Gärriyak, south of Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island). We [the Garrawurra people] sing two songs about them with biḻma. They aren’t really songs, they are stories.
Wherever they stopped, the Djaŋ’kawu Sisters changed their language, names, clan, ceremony and customs. They gave these things to the people at each place. They also made Gapu Milminydjarrk or Milŋurr (water holes) by poking their dhoṉa (digging sticks) into the ground. Some of these waters are sacred but some are alright to drink from.
The Sisters gave miku (red), watharr (white) and buthalak (yellow) ochre colours for us to paint with. We use them for the Ŋärra law ceremony, which is a cleansing ceremony. These designs also refer to our clan totem animals, Nyoka (mud-crab), Weḏu (freshwater catfish), Buwaṯa (Bush Turkey), Ŋaṯili (Red-tailed Black Cockatoo), Worrutj (Red-collared lorikeet) and Djirriḏiḏi (Forest Kingfisher).
The striped red, white and yellow design which creates a border for these waterholes, is known as Djirriḏiḏi. This is painted on participants at Ŋärra (Cleansing Ceremony), Bäpurru (funeral) for Dhuwa people, and at Dhapi (initiation ceremony). Garrawurra artists create many variations of this geometric design, representing the progressive stages of ceremony. Some artworks contain large fields of miku or ratjpa (two different red ochres), which denote the body being prepared to be painted.
The four roundels in this piece represent Milminydjarrk, the sacred waterholes at the artist’s homeland, Gärriyak. The women know about these waterholes which are in the ḻarrtha (mangroves), although they are not allowed to go there.
This artwork has been framed by Don Whyte Framing. It is ready hang.