Birri-bengwarreminj mako-ken

Birribengwarreminj mako-ken

That Didjeridu Has Sent them Mad

An article that originally appeared in 2000. I. Chance (Ed.), Kaltja now : Indigenous arts Australia (pp. 12-25). Kent Town (SA): Wakefield Press.

Download (PDF, 3.41MB)

Something About Emus

The Bininj Kunwok Language Project is very excited to announce the appearance of our new book Something About Emus: Bininj Stories From Western Arnhem Land. It's a bilingual Kunwok and Kunbalanda (English) edited volume with lots of stories from dabborrabbolk— the old people, and lots of full colour photos and illustrations. We will be having several launches of the book in the coming weeks: Melbourne (3 May 2017 at Uni. Melbourne) & Jabiru (date TBA). Great curriculum materials for schools, useful for land management programs, tourists, National Park mob etc. Published by Aboriginal Studies Press (AIATSIS).

SAE front cover flyer


that is all


Antidesma ghaesembilla 1
Antidesma ghaesembilla 2
Kudjewk wanjh karrimang mandjurlukkumarlba.
'In the wet season we get mandjurlukkumarlba berries.'
It's now the season for mandjurlukkumarlba berries (Antidesma ghaesembila). In Kuninjku they are called mandjurlukkurn. In Kundjeyhmi they are called andjurlukkumarlba and in Kune they are djurlukkurn.
Kuninjku people near Mumeka like to get these berries at this time of year at Bilindje on the Mumeka to Maningrida road on the Tomkinson flood plain.
The plant also has a nickname called kunjkurlba which means 'kangaroo blood'. That's because the old people used to use the juice as part of kangaroo sorcery to hunt kangaroos. They sprayed the juice on to kangaroo tracks on the ground and eventually the legs of the kangaroos would become arthritic and lock up, making it easier to spear them.
Learn about your local foods, learn how to say their names, look after them.
photos by Gary Fox
that is all


Balang Djimarr Kebbarurrinj

In this post we will learn the verb -barung 'to cover in paint or ochre, to smear'.


In this picture Balang Djimarr (a speaker of Kuninjku) has painted his body and face. His body has a plant design painted in black ochre. This plant is called wurrurrumi in Kuninjku which is a vine that botanists call Tinospora smilacina. This is also the name of a song series that Djimarr sings. That's why he has that design painted on his body. On his face he has white ochre or delek splattered in a design known as bedjek-bedjek.

The verb -barung means to cover with paint or ochre or to smear a surface with some liquid or viscous substance (like paint, glue, oil etc). There is another verb -bimbun which means to draw, write or paint an image. This has a different meaning to -barung which means to smear, cover a surface with paint, ochre or some other similar substance.

Here are some examples of the verb with a few different pronoun prefixes:

nga-barung 'I smear it'

yi-barung 'you smear it'

karri-barung 'we are (all) smearing it'

kabirri-barung 'they are smearing it'

You can incorporate a noun into the verb, between the pronoun prefix and the verb. The word kun-keb means 'nose/face' but when it gets incorporated into the verb you drop off the noun class prefix kun- like this:

kabi-kebbarung 'he is painting/smearing his (another person's) face'. In this example, the prefix kabi-means 'he/she acting on another single person' (third person singular subject acting on a third person singular object). If you wanted to say he/she is painting their faces you would use:


The prefix kaben- means that a single person is acting on a plural (three or more) object i.e. 'he/she acting on them'.

If you are painting your own face, then you need to use the reflexive form of the verb which is -barurren [baru-rr-en]. This is the present or future tense form. In the past tense the reflexive is -barurrinj. 

If I want to say 'he painted his face' then in the third person singular past tense, there is no prefix on the verb. It is what linguists call a zero prefix. We need to keep the noun 'face' incorporated however so we end up with this:


ø-             keb- baru-  rr-             inj


Then we can change the "mood" to an event that is not real, i.e. something that didn't happen, or what is known as "irrealis mood". This form of the verb occurs with the negative marker minj 'not'. If you wanted to say 'she didn't smear/cover it with paint' you would say:

minj baruyi

But if Balang didn't paint his face with the ochre in the above picture, you would say this:

Balang minj kebbarurremeninj.

Balang did not paint/smear his/her (own) face.


That is all.

Kabindi-bimbukkan kore Border Store

[soundcloud url="" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Audio recorded and transcript prepared by Andy Peart:

Larry Bangarr talks about the "Thick Lines—Thin Lines" weekly tourist activity that has been going for a few years every Saturday at the Border Store or Merl Campground during the dry season, organised by Injalak Arts & Crafts and funded by Kakadu National Park. Interview by Andy Peart.

[00:00:00.00] AP: Na-ngale ngudda?

What is your name?

[00:00:06.01] LB: Ngaye Bangardi. Bangardi Namarrirn

My subsection name is Bangardi, and my clan group is Marrirn.

[00:00:10.19] AP: Dja ngudda dja nungka nawu Nadjalama, Nakangila, ngune-djarrkdurrkmirri bolkkime kore Border Store.

And you and Amos (Nakangila subsection, Djalama clan group) are working together here at the Border Store?

[00:00:21.20] LB: Yoh.


[00:00:22.05] AP: Njale - njale ngune-durrkmirri?

What work do you both do?

[00:00:24.02] LB: Djurra ngane-bimbun, ngane-bimbun bikos kore kabirrimh-re nawu tourist ngan(d)ih-nan.

We paint pictures and finish them so tourists can came and watch.

[00:00:31.20] AP: Yiben-bukkan?

You show them how you paint.

[00:00:33.05] LB: Ngarrben-bukkan.

I show them.

[00:00:35.11] AP: Dja yiddok ngurrben-bengyolyolme bu bim, rarrk yika, yiman?

And do you explain to them about the art, about the cross hatching etc?

[00:00:41.15] LB: Ngarrben-bengyolyolme laik ngarrih-bimbun, ngarrben-bengyolyolme, wanjh ngarrbenh-marneyime, ngarri-benwon, la copy ngandi-yime.

We explain about things, about what we are painting, and we give them paper so they can copy us.

[00:00:55.23] AP: Yikahwi kabirri-bimbun bedman?

Sometimes the visitors paint their own pictures?

[00:01:01.29] LB: Yoh, bu yiman bu kabirri-bimbun yiman kabirrih-lenh learn kabirri-yime yiman bu bedman wanjh kabirri-bimbun. Kabirri-marnbun.

Yes, they paint pictures, following what we do

[00:01:09.25] AP: Man-yilk...

Sedge grass (Cyperas javanicus)?

[00:01:11.09] LB: Man-yilk, manih kun-dalk.

The sedge grass we call man-yilk, here.

[00:01:17.01] AP: Mah, and njale kabirribimbun? Mayh, or djenj?

What do they paint? Animals, fish?

[00:01:23.07] LB: Mayhmayh, o djenj, o kinga, ngalmangiyi. Bu laik ngarri-bimbun namekke kabirrimh-re kabirri-nan namekke turis, ngandidjawan ngadberre: "Njale nakka ngurri-marnbun?" ngarri-ngeybun namekke. En ngarrben-won djurra, "Ngurri-bimbun yiman nanih _____ ngarri-bimbun ngad.” Wanjh copy ngandi-yime, kabirri-marnbun.

Birds, fish, crocodiles, long-necked turtle. We paint them, then we get the tourists to see what we painted. They ask us “what do you call that?” and we tell them the name. We give them paper to paint on, and tell them “you have a go at painting this animal like how we did it”. So they copy us and make their own paintings.

[00:01:48.08] AP: And , dja wurdwurd?

And kids?

[00:01:49.23] LB: Wurdwurd warridj. Wurdwurd mak ngarrben-bukkan.

Kids too, we show them how to paint.

[00:01:53.00] AP: Kabirri-marnedjare.

They love it.

[00:01:54.20] LB: Kabirri-djare ba kabirri-bimbun bu ngandi-nan, copy ngandi-yime.

They like to paint when they see us and copy us.

[00:01:59.09] AP: Yikahwi na-wern tourists.

Sometimes many tourists are here having a look.

[00:02:01.17] LB: Yoh, na-wern.

Yes, lots.

[00:02:03.07] Yikahwi nabuyika artists kabirri-durrkmirri?

Sometimes different artists come to work here?

[00:02:10.01] LB: Bu birri-wern mak yika kore mak ngarrben-bawon Kunbarlanja. Ngarrben-bawong, ngane-djalbokenh konda ngaye Bulanj nganem-wam kondah ngane-bimbimbun bu laik nani Balanda ngarrbenh-nan, ngandih-nan. Ngandih-nan la ngarrben-nan. La ngarrbenh-bukkan.

There are many other artists, but just two of us come here and we left everyone else back at Gunbalanya – today myself and Bulanj [Amos] – to see the tourists and show them how we paint.

[00:02:26.20] AP: Every Saturday.

[00:02:28.21] LB: Every Saturday.

[00:02:29.27] AP: Mah. Konda kore Border Store.

Here at the Border Store.

[00:02:32.26] LB: Konda Border Store.

Here at the Border Store.

[00:02:35.02] AP: Dja yiddok yikahwi nawu bim nawu tourist kabirri-bimbun na-mak? Yikahwi?

Sometimes the visitors paint good pictures?

[00:02:43.09] LB: Yika bu yiman kabirri-wernhborlbme, wanjh kunukka na-mak kabirri-marnbun.

Some of them learn to paint reasonably well and their pictures turn out ok.

[00:02:49.20] AP: Yikahwi na-warre.

Sometimes terrible.

[00:02:51.29] LB: Yika na-warre, yoh.

Yes, sometimes they're awful.

[00:02:53.25] AP: Mah, and last one bolkkime.

And today is the last Saturday for the year.

[00:02:57.24] LB: Bolkkime nganem-wam, last one mane. Kaluk might be next year kare.

Today we've come, and its the last one. Then maybe next year it will happen again.

[00:03:04.02] AP: Next year, mah.

Next year, ok.

[00:03:04.26] LB: Next year manu bu nganem-wam, Bulanj, wanjh bu ngane-durndeng kaluk, djal next year-wi kare.

That's it now, so next year we'll come back for this work.

[00:03:11.24] AP: Mah. Kamak, bonj.

Ok, good, we can finish it here.

[00:03:13.24] LB: Mah. Kunekke, bobo.

Ok, that's the story then. Bye.

Amos and Tony Nadjaburnburn



Bim: Bangardi Larry dja Bulanj Amos kabene-bimbukkan tourist bedberre kore Border Store.

Photos: Larry Bangarr and Amos Nganjmirra from Injalak Arts and Crafts teaching Bininj painting to tourists at the Border Store.

(photos by Andy Peart)


That is all.