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Yithuwa Madarrpa people

Yirrkala, North East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia born 1953

Djet the Sea Eagle [Carving of Djet the Sea Eagle (#20)] 1984
Collection Title: Djet the Sea Eagle
Place made: Baniyala, North East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, natural pigments on wood

Primary Insc: No inscriptions
Dimensions: 118.0 h x 20.0 w x 18.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1984
Accession No: NGA 84.1961.2
Image rights: © the artist courtesy Buku-Larrnggay Mulka

This story comes from Baniyala. In the Dreaming there was a family living nearby at Ngarriwuy: father and son Djet, grandfather Ngakngak and two Brolga mothers. One day little Djet saw mullet fish near the shore. He picked them up and went back to his father and cooked them on the fire. His father asked him, ‘Son, will you give me the head of the fish?’ He replied, ‘No father, I will not give it to you’. ‘Son, will you give me the tail of the fish?’ The son wouldn’t give him any. Father said to him, ‘Well, my son, you will stay here with your grandfather, I will go fishing now’. So father went off, paddling the canoe, and caught lots of fish.

Father went back to the camp and the little boy asked for some fish. ‘No, don’t take it,’ said the father. Little Djet asked father several times, but father Djet wouldn’t give him any. Father Djet cooked and ate the fish and little Djet started to cry. He had a tantrum, drumming his heels and wailing, then on his body feathers started to grow, but he kept crying until he changed into Djet (Sea Eagle). Little Djet flew up in the sky forever and didn’t come back.

Father Djet, stricken with grief and remorse, changed into Djet. Grandfather Ngakngak was making a dilly bag and saw his son changed into Djet. He hung the dilly bag on the tree, changed into Ngakngak, and flew up to the sky. He was Djarrwark tribe. The dilly bag was special to bottom Djapu [clan], belonging to Dhuruputjpi area.

The two mothers got back to the camp. They saw no grandfather, no son. They only saw the dilly bag hanging on the tree. They got the dilly bag and went away to Dhuruputjpi. They named a few important waterholes belonging to bottom Djapu.

Djambawa Marawili 2010

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010