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Glossary

Glossary

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Bayini

Light-skinned mythological beings of the Yirritja moiety, believed to pre-date the Macassan fishers, who were also involved in collecting and curing trepang. In the Djang'kawu story, they are particularly associated with Wapilina, one of the most important and best documented Macassan trepang collecting sites in northern Australia.

Bilma

Clap sticks — usually of two pieces of rectangular shaped wood beaten together to produce the rhythm for singing. They are normally used together with the didjeridu, however much of the Djang'kawu cycle are referred to as 'bilma' songs because they only use the clap stick.

Bir'yun

Bir'yun means a flash of light. It refers to the way crosshatched patterns create the sensation of shimmering over the painting's surface.

Dhuwa

One of the two major groupings into which all the Yolngu are divided in north-east Arnhem Land. Yirritja is the name of the other moiety.

Djunggaya

Rirratjingu spelling for Djunggayi, a term denoting managers or custodians who inherit rights and responsibilities to land and ceremonies via the mother's clan. Djunggayi for the Dhuwa moiety Rirratjingu are the Yirritja children of Rirratjingu women, and the Yirritja moiety spouses and spouses' brothers and sisters of Rirratjingu men and women.

Djota

Alternative name for the digging or walking stick. See mawalan and ganinyidi, the terms often used to denote a tree that has grown out of the digging stick.

Ganinyidi

Alternative name for digging stick; see also mawalan.

Goyurr

Journey or distance travelled, which in this instance refers to the Djang'kawu's journey across the sea from Burralku and then over land after their arrival at Yalangbara. The main route goyurr of the Djang'kawu within Rirratjingu territory is well defined, linked by named localities where particular activities occurred.

Madayin

Body of sacred law and associated objects.

Macassans

The term encompasses a number of Indonesian groups, including Bugis, from Sulawesi, believed to have visited the shores of Arnhem Land on a seasonal basis from about 1700 to 1907. Here they harvested a range of resources including trepang or sea slugs, a delicacy mainly traded on to China.

Manikay

Cycle of ritual songs, particularly public clan songs.

Mawalan

Name for the wooden digging stick normally used by women when foraging and digging up vegetable foods. It is associated with the Djang'kawu's creation of environmental features especially the freshwater holes around Yalangbara and the djota trees.

Miny'tji

Design or painting, which can refer to both naturally occurring and manufactured designs. It is often used generally to describe the complex crosshatched designs associated with each clan group and its sites.

Miwatj

A term used to describe the general Gove Peninsula region. It literally means, 'morning side' referring to the fact this part of Arnhem Land is the first to see the sunrise.

Moiety

Literally means a division into two parts. In north-east Arnhem Land it refers to the division of all clan groups into two intermarrying groups called Yirritja and Dhuwa. People inherit their moiety identity from their father and paternal grandfather, and are required to marry someone from the other moiety, for example, the Rirratjingu clan belong to the Dhuwa moiety and marry into Yirritja clan groups such as Gumatj and Madarrpa. Land and water areas, totemic ancestors and ceremonies, natural species, and other phenomena are all assigned to one or the other moiety.

Ngapaki

Name for a non-Aboriginal or European person commonly now used instead of the term balanda.

Ngarra

Revelatory ceremony performed by either Dhuwa or Yirritja moiety groups to celebrate the ancestral exploits specific to each clan. For the Rirratjingu the Dhuwa Ngarra focuses upon the Djang'kawu's exploits at Yalangbara.

Nganmarra

A conical mat initially made with undyed pandanus fibre. It was used as a cover mainly for children when set upright like a large triangular shaped hat. It could also be folded and flattened just like an ordinary sitting mat. The word also means uterus and refers to the way the Djang'kawu carried their sacred objects/spirit children in their mats.

Rangga

Sacred objects central to important ceremonies. In the Djang'kawu story these sacred objects were distributed to all Dhuwa moiety groups. These are revealed during restricted sessions of the Ngarra ceremony that celebrates the creative actions of the Djang'kawu.

Wangarr

The Yolngu term for 'dreaming'. It refers to both the ancestral past as well the ancestral beings themselves.

Wapitja

Another term for wooden digging, stick along with mawalan .

Yirritja

One of the two groupings into which all the Yolngu are divided in north-east Arnhem Land. Dhuwa is the name of the other moiety.

Yolngu

Yolngu literally means 'people or human being'. The term is used by the people of north-east Arnhem Land region to describe themselves, in recognition of their shared forms of social, local and religious organisation, and mutually intelligible dialects of a single language generally referred to today as Yolngu-matha.