Earth pigments on Wood
22 x 7cm
Yolŋu sacred songs tell of the first rising clouds on the horizons – the first sightings for the year of the Macassan praus’ sails. The grief felt at the time of Macassan trepangers returning to Sulawesi with Bulunu (the S.E winds of the early Dry season) is correlated with the grief at the passing from life of a death in the clan. The return of the Macassans with Luŋgurrma (the Northerly Monsoon winds of the approaching Wet) is an analogue of the rebirth of the spirit following appropriate mortuary ritual. Some of the Macassan language has been adopted into the Yolŋu vocabulary and in some cases genealogies shared. It is probable that Yolŋu seamanship was learnt from the Macassan and it was only a generation or so ago that Yolŋu travelled the coast in dugout canoes, some fitted with Macassan styled sail.
Over centuries of amiable annual visitation the Maccasans had some influence over the dynamism of Yolŋu culture. Djiḻawurr (Scrub Fowl) is depicted a common motif associated with Makassan harbours (marŋarr) as they associate with freshwater fed jungle close to the shore. They are often depicted with the Djambuŋ or Tamarind tree which is usually present at these marŋarr having been brought by the visitors over centuries. This bird is unusual in that the father tends the nest once the female lays the eggs and departs. These massive mounds are used year after year and need constant maintenance to stay at the optimum temperature. Once born the young are self-sufficient. The bords sweep the surrounding area of leaves and the action of composting is one of the elements which maintain tempreature.