“Ŋunhi balaŋ Ŋärra dhiyal, ŋayi balaŋ nhäŋu dhuwal, Yolŋuy. Or Ŋäpaki. Nhä nhapurruŋ, Garrawurraw mala”.
“If there is a Ŋärra here, Yolŋu will see this. Or European people. [They will see] what is ours, the Garrawurra.”
The ancestral Djaŋ’kawu Sisters travelled from the 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] 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 (waterholes) 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 (crab), Weḏu (freshwater catfish), Buwaṯa (Bush Turkey), Ŋaṯili (Red-tailed Black Cockatoo), Worrutj (Red-collared lorikeet) and Djirriḏiḏi (Forest Kingfisher). The colours as used in these designs are themselves generally referred to as Djirriḏiḏi or as Weḏu.
These red, white and yellow striped designs, are painted on participants at Ŋärra (cleansing ceremony). Garrawurra artists create variations of this geometric design, representing the different stages of the ceremony. Some artworks contain large fields of miku or ratjpa (both red), which denote the body being prepared to be painted.