Earth pigments on Stringybark
100 x 39.5cm
Madarrpa clan hunters Yikuwaŋa and Nurruguyamirri left the shores of Yathikpa in Yalwarr, the canoe constructed of paperbark, native bees wax, bush timbers and string. Their destination was Woodah Island, to see a brother in law. They were to collect from him hunting paraphernalia for fishing, principally fishing hooks of carved hard wood attached to bush string lines. large shells for bailing unwanted water coming into the canoe and turtle shell for impending barter.
Successful in this they paddled off from Woodah Island in search of good fishing grounds.
Once off shore on seeing Dugong they pursued it to harpoon. In this area of saltwater was another sacred site of fire – a submerged rock surrounded by turbulent and dangerous water. It was here at Dhakalmayi that the Dugong took shelter to escape the hunters. The action of the flung harpoon towards the Dugong, hence the rock, enraged the powers that be, causing these dangerous waters to boil from sacred fires from underneath. The canoe capsized, both drowning and burning the Ancestral Hunters with their canoe and hunting paraphernalia. The harpoon, rope, paddles and canoe are sung at ceremony and manifestations of these objects are used as restricted secret sacred objects in ceremony today.
Djunuŋguyaŋu the dugong are associated with this site, attracted by sandy sea beds that grow the sea grass called Gamaṯa that they graze.
The events that occur in Wangarr (Creation time) occur in a tense that does not exist in English. This is a time dimension which is simultaneously the distant creative past/the present/ and the infinite future. In this dimension any Madarrpa hunting dugong is a manifestation of the land’s identity.
The water cycle mirrors that of the spirit and death is thwarted by the transformation from saltwater to ether when vapour is formed into clouds made of life giving freshwater to be born again once rain hits the escarpment country behind the coast. The cycle continues.
So the harpoon travels, floating between related clan estates in the waters of Blue Mud Bay. Estates are connected spiritually in a multi directional way – both to and from, a cyclic phenomenon which is chronicled in the sacred songs that narrate these Ancestral actions over land, through the sea and ether.
A ceremonial sand sculpture, known as Yingapungapu, used to mother, confine, release the essence and spirit of the Madarrpa people and realm is made at mortuary. It reflects the shape of the capsized canoe.
The inside of the Yingapungapu represents two levels of understanding for its use but revert to the same theme – that of cleansing within the boundaries the Yingapungapu. Openly food scraps are tossed into this place such as Lalu (parrot fish) which is broken down by maggots. The other side is a deeper ceremonial issue where the deceased is placed within the sculpture to confine the contamination of death to this sacred instrument to initiate mortuary ritual.