“The ceremonies of Kurdiji embody four strong and sacred symbols. The morning star, kangaroo, emu and witi poles. These four elements combine to form a shield, a symbol of protection and guardianship. Wooden shields are decorated with dot paintings, representing each of the initiate’s grandparents. This is malkarri, the map which helps us navigate our path. It steers us through our learning, allowing us to become guardians and protectors of our homeland, as is the way of the Wedge-Tailed Eagle.
Our malkarri is written in the land and in the sky. The emu flies across the milky way, showing us which way to go. The southern cross, the emu’s crown, tells us who we are. It is a crown of knowledge, a crown of identity. If we truly understand ourselves, then we are all king and queen in our homeland.
This is the beginning of Kurdiji.
. . . The emu is disappearing from the sky, diving into the ocean. This signals the arrival of the wet season. The water, ngapa, is everywhere. It is a time for celebration, but also for learning. The emu is our teacher, feeding us the gift of knowledge.
The emu tells us we must seek out our learning. We may have to look closely, because sometimes the lessons are hidden. But if we are hungry for knowledge, we will dig it up like food, then feed on the knowledge to make ourselves strong. By learning about this country, we learn about ourselves. If we discard this teaching, we are left vulnerable.
Knowledge is given to us as a gift. Once it has been given to us, we become a gift to someone else. Once we have learnt through our own experience, we can pass the gift of knowledge on to others.
Life is a road. And like all journeys, before we depart, we must equip ourselves with the ability to navigate. But how do we prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the road ahead? A ceremony is stirring. A ceremony called Kurdiji. We are ready for a new beginning.”
(Wanta Jampijinpa – introduction to 2016 Milpirri festival with Tracks Dance company, photograph by Tracks Dance company)