Etching on Paper
paper size 53 cm x 40 cm; image size 39 cm x 30 cm Hahnemuhle paper
Yambirrku is the green parrotfish, totemic to the Maŋgalili clan. It was speared by the Maŋgalili ancestral hunter Muwandi at Djarrakpi from a special rock that bears the same name. The fish was taken back to Muwandi’s camp called Dhunwaŋguthi. The left over carcass was placed in a sand pit to keep the camp clean. The pit was to evolve into the Yiŋapuŋapu, the traditional mortuary sand sculpture where the body of a deceased Maŋgalili was placed to keep the contamination of death at bay. Paintings of the Yiŋapuŋapu are often depicted with the skeletal remains of Yambirrku in its middle. The ceremony concludes with a ritual meal of Yambirrku.
Toilers in keeping the beach at Djarrakpi ritually pure are Gunyan totemic sandcrabs.
It is their job to cleanse the bones of dangerous spirits held within the body tissue. A metaphor for this action of spiritual cleansing in mortuary ceremony is utilised in this painting by way of depicting Mirriya or Gunyan the sand or ghost crab picking the bones of a fish carcass (Yambirrku) on the beach.
Contemporary Maŋgalili on the beaches of Djarrakpi put their food scraps in one place when at camp – the secular Yiŋupuŋapu.