Djurrung (Sacred bones) by Melba Gunjarrwanga

Djurrung (Sacred bones)

This artwork depicts the Djurrung (bones) inside the lorrkon (hollow log) used in funeral ritual in the ways of our old people. “Our ancestors when someone passed away, our people would bury them in the ground and leave them there for a long time for the flesh and skin to change into the earth. Many years later the men would return to that site and dig up the bones. They would then fill a painted hollow log with the bones of the deceased.” The bones would be hiding inside the lorrkon, as is revealed in this etching. The bones represented in this artwork include the head, shin, shoulder, hip, rip cage, hand, wrist, feet and left and right femur. After the lorrkon is filled with bones, it stands up straight in the middle of camp for all to see. The women walk around the lorrkon dancing, and singing the song that sounds like “biddarr biddarr bidda bidda biddah biddarr”. “We can still see the bones from these funerals, in the rock country near Yikkarrakal and Manmoyi. You can listen to the birds there singing and they speak to each other- they don’t like balanda (non-indigenous people) going there. But our people, we can call out to the birds and the ancestors to keep us safe going inside, and if we have guests too. It is important to respect this rock country. Some Kuninjku can speak the spirit language. That is the language that the birds and ancestors speak together.”