40 X 40cm Paper: BFK RIVES 56 x 66cm
Extract from Yalangbara-Art of the Djang’kawu- Museum and Art Gallery NT. Pg146
The distribution and use of the conical mat among Dhuwa moiety clans follows the trajectory of the Djang’kawu sisters’ journey across North-East Arnhem Land brought with them to Yalangbara from Burralku. In the Djang’kawa narratives the mat is made by twining pandanus fibre. The conical mat concealed the Sisters’ sacred sacra during their creative journey but most commonly mentioned as the meta-containers in which the Sisters’ carried their sacred objects – that is, the spirits of all the humans and other species they would create during their journey. All the animals were wrapped up inside their own mats- the brown duck, goanna and other animals.
The genesis of the mat is suggested in part of the Djang’kawu song cycle recorded by Ronald Berndt. In this the Djang’kawu encounter a sea monster or a whale that they describe as a mat floating under the water as they journeyed to Yalangbara. Mawalan#1 Marika later confirmed from a scientific photograph that this symbolic conical mat was actually a sunfish (Mola Ramsayi), which does often float sideways in the ocean, like a big round disc.
Mawalan#1 Marika provided the following account with Wanduk‘s assistance to Anne Wells for the Dhuwa
“So the two Sisters set still in the tossing canoe, watching the great sea creature with eyes that were full of fear and half of wonder. Surely it is like a great mat they say to one another softly, and the older one said she would weave a mat like it out of pandanus as we weave our hunting bags; only for the Nganmarra we will make a fringe all around like the fins or ripples that are round the edge of that great fish’s body. Then when we see our sacred Nganmarra we will remember this giant sunfish for it is a wonder out in the deep water.”
Printed June 2015