Earth pigments & sand on Stringybark
This is a painting that just generically depicts a ceremonial scene. People are shown dancing and with biḻma (clapsticks) and yiḏaki.
The Yidaki (didjeridu), although increasingly popular and produced by a widening group of people in Australia and around the world, had a more limited range previously. It is likely that its traditional range in Aboriginal Australia was confined to the Northern parts of the Northern Territory and Cape York in Queensland.
The Yolŋu are the people of the Miwatj region (North East Arnhem Land). There are appromimately 16 different Yolŋu clans within this region. Each clan has their own estate (homeland), language or dialect, and totemic relationships.
For Yolŋu, the timelessness of the Yidaki itself is a clear indication of the depth of knowledge associated with its spiritual creation, craftsmanship, and ceremonial application. When differentiating between regional stylistic playing differences, the rapid complex rhythm structure of Yolŋu generic Yidaki playing style is the foremost aspect. Yolŋu technique is by far the most diverse and advanced. This evidence could be used to support a statement that the Yidaki originated in the Eastern regions of Arnhem Land and spread across to Western Arnhemland. Similar statements have been made by some Yolŋu Yidaki masters.
Yolŋu believe that all of the elements of creation stem from a cohesive set of activities in the Ancestral past.
In the beginning, Ancestors moved through the land creating different Yolŋu clans as they went. These Ancestral events are recorded in Manikay (sacred song). Each particular clan has their own Manikay which only they sing. Some clans share the same Manikay as well as retain their own particular songs. This ‘ownership’ of Manikay is in accordance with particular events in the Ancestral past .
Manikay gives an identity to all Yolŋu clans-people and their land. It also provides a pedigree for ceremonial and ritual activity and associated objects. Yidaki fits within this category as an ancient sacred ritual instrument.
Yolŋu Buŋgul (ceremony) usually consists of 4 parts. Because of the above events, the Manikay (song) is of primary importance. Therefore the songman has a leading role in ceremony. Bilma (clapsticks) are used for various purposes and can be interpreted as symbols of Yolŋu law. Yidaki is used as a semi-percussive rhythm instrument for song cycles. The dancing is physical representation of the song. All of these components are strongly connected together.
Yolŋu define everything as having either Yirritja or Dhuwa moeity. Moeity applies to all clans people, the whole Yolŋu environment and all it contains. It is the basis from which Yolŋu form their relationships with each other and the environment. Moeity also applies to Yidaki.