Kabirri-bolkbarung bu ka-bolkyakmen

Kabirri-bolkbarung bu ka-bolkyakmen

Painting things in ochre after someone passes away

If you live in Kakadu National Park or a town in Arnhem Land, you might notice that from time to time Bininj will mark trees, vehicles and buildings with red or yellow ochre lines. For most non-Indigenous people these marks will remain invisible and for others they will be incomprehensible, but it is a mortuary cultural practice that is very important to Bininj.

Here is a transcript in Gundjeihmi from Yvonne Margarula from the Mirarr clan in Jabiru explaining what these marks mean:

YM: Couple of months, might be like I say dird bogen o dird na-gudji,

two or three months (after someone dies)

Alright, gun-gurlk, yiman gun-nodjbe, gun-nodjbe arri-dulkdjobge, arri-dulkdjobge ....

Alright, we use clay, like red ochre, red ochre um we cut a line around the tree, we cut this line on the tree in clay

Arri-dulkdjobgeng, gun-gurlk nga-rrulkdjobge wanjh na-gohbanj ba-yakminj na-gohbanj nga-rrulkdjobkeng wanjh arri-re arri-warlbun maih arri-yawan djenj.

We paint a line in clay around the tree after when someone has died like when that old man [my father] died I painted a line of ochre around the tree and after that we can enter that area where he used to go so we too can go hunting or fishing again.

Arri-dulkdjobkeng gun-gurlk, barri-dulkdjobkeng gun-gurlk, na-gohbanj ba-yakminj dird danjbik, ba-rrulkdjobkeng gun-gurlk garlba wanjh arri-re arri-warlbun djenj arri-re maih arri-yawan ngarrban-gan family [rubs nose with hand] wanjh bonj arri-wohre.

After a person dies like when my father died, we paint clay rings around trees where he used to visit and then it is safe for us to go hunting or fishing or take our family around that place.

Here are some photos of these ochre mortuary markings:

In this video Kamarrang Jack Nawilil from Bolkdjam talks about this practice in the Mayali (or Kune) dialect of Bininj Gunwok. The video is subtitled but the Mayali transcript is below.



Laik nga-mulemulewan

laik Mayali-beh


laik namarnde ka-rrowen

yiman ka-yime beywurd ngarrku

o yiman na-badjan ngarrku

laik yiman ka-yime ngadjadj ngarri-yime

yiman ka-yime mamamh ngarri-yime

laik ka-rrown nane kun-buya ka-rradjke

mekim klia laik ka-marnbun


nani nawu

laik wardi laik Bininj Bininj laik minj warrbo ka-ngun


ka-marnbun nomol kun-red

ka-marnbun kun-buya laik ka-yakmen

laik ka-rrowen yiman ka-yime beywurd ngarrku yiman ka-yime ngadjadj

yiman ka-yimem mamamh

yiman ka-yime kakkak

Nane ka-yakmen kun-buya

Yiman ka-yime ngarr-bolkmardadahme


That is all.