Story:Majarrka is the name of a sacred ceremonial totem carved from the riymangurru tree. Riymangurru trees grow near Paruku [Lake Gregory] and around Yunpu. They are a hardwood used to make weapons and digging sticks. Majarrka is part of the law and Dreaming associated with the riymangurru tree and it has its own song and ceremony. The contemporary story performed in Majarrka juju [song and dance] has evolved out of this traditional ceremony but is based on a true event. It tells the story of two law bosses, Ned Cox’s father’s father, Wurtuwaya, and Tom Lawford’s mother’s grandfather, Wirrali, both of whom are now deceased. Wurtuwaya and Wirrali were travelling around near Paruku as wanya [‘featherfoot’, sorcerers wielding a similar power to maparn but whose work is concerned with payback rather than healing]. They were looking for their sacred Majarrka totem, which had been stolen from Jarrkurti, a place not far from Jalyirr and Yunpu, by a group of men who were performing their own ceremony with it. The men were dancing with the totem when Wurtuwaya and Wirrali found them. The two men were hiding as wanya as they watched the men perform. When the men turned their backs, the two bosses snuck in and retrieved the Majarrka totem. In Majarrka juju the dancers who wear the long headdresses (pukurti) represent the men who stole the Majarrka totem. The two dancers with the flat-topped headdresses (kumunungku) represent the bosses, Wurtuwaya and old Wirrali. 'I want to tell a story about this little stick, this one, kana [digging stick]. Long time ago kartiya [white people] been digging with [iron] bar, long way down, might be 200 feet [to make the Canning Stock Route wells]. Kana, kuturu [large hitting stick used for fighting] and makura [deep coolamon or wooden dish used for carrying water], all to get water in my language. 'This tree and me we been born in the same Country, the one Country. He’s got a meaning this tree. This is the tree now, the meaning. He got the culture, Majarrka. Riymangurru tree from Lake Gregory. That’s the tree, that Majarrka.' (Yanpiyarti Ned Cox, 2007) In this story Yanpiyarti Ned Cox draws a parallel between the sinking of the Canning Stock Route wells and the digging out of waterholes. The traditional hardwood tools and coolamons used to dig and scoop out mud are often made from trees that have important laws and ceremonies associated with them, as is also the case with Majarrka.
Media Creator:Tim Acker
Media date: 2008
Story Location: Paruku (Lake Gregory), Ngumpan
Media Description:Majarrka dancers get dressed and painted up at Majarrka Workshop at Ngumpan Community.
Story contributor(s):Yanpiyarti Ned Cox, Putuparri Tom Lawford, Monique La Fontaine, Karen Dayman
Art Centre(s): Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre, Ngurra Artists, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency
Media copyright: FORM
This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.