1983, 92 Minutes
In 1971 Wandjuk Marika organised a Djang’kawu ceremony at Yirrkala. It was to be a memorial for his father, Mawalan, who died in 1967. Mawalan had been the highly respected head of the Rirratjingu clan, for whom the Djang’kawu are primary Creator Ancestors. The two Djang’kawu Sisters came from across the sea and travelled through northeast Arnhem Land, shaping the landscape and giving birth to the first children of the Dhuwa moiety. The Djang’kawu gave each clan its name and language, its land and sacred law. Their journey links clan to clan, and clan to land.
Before he died in 1967, Mawalan had erected a sacred Djuta ‘tree’ at Yirrkala’s beach camp. This represented the original Djuta tree created by the Djang’kawu at Yalangbara, where the Djang’kawu first landed and gave birth to the children of the Rirratjingu clan. Mawalan’s Djuta was beginning to rot away. Through Djang’kawu ritual, Wandjuk planned to replace it with a new one and then move the old Djuta to stand by Mawalan’s grave.
Like all Yolngu ceremonies, this particular Djang’kawu ceremony was a unique event shaped to fit a particular set of circumstances. Through this ceremony the creative and procreative actions of the Djang’kawu are revealed. Great importance is given to teaching the Djang’kawu ritual to the young people.
For the Yolngu of Yirrkala in 1971 the reaffirmation of their Law was more important than ever, as they had just lost their historic (and Australia’s first) land rights case.
A Film Australia National Interest Program.
© 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Producer/Director: Ian Dunlop
Featured People: Wandjuk Marika, Roy Marika
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: Indigenous Studies; Studies of Religion; Legal Studies - Contesting laws: Heritage, culture and land; SOSE/HSIE; Australian History - of particular relevance for NSW History Stage 5, Topic 6 'Changing Rights and Freedoms' Section A: Aboriginal Peoples - Change over Time; NSW History Stage 4 'Aboriginal and Indigenous Peoples, Colonisation and Contact History: What has been the nature and impact of colonisation on Aboriginal, Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples?'; English; Performing & Visual Arts. Teachers’ notes and background material are included.