The collaged family photographs we share in this book raise issues of rights and responsibilities that extend beyond the specific, and mostly young, artists who created them. Wherever possible, Miyarrka Media sought permission to publish from senior family members, as well as the people who appear in the images. Paul Gurrumuruwuy led what became a lengthy process of consultation and permission-gathering, working image by image, family by family. On several occasions, when a phone call proved inadequate, Gurrumuruwuy flew to other communities to hold formal meetings with family groups.
Special care has been taken with images that feature deceased people. But, as will become clear later in these pages, the fact that an image includes someone who has died does not necessarily restrict its reproduction—provided permission has been sought. Any image deemed unsuitable for public circulation, for whatever reason, has been removed from the manuscript. Generally, however, we have found strong support for publishing these bitja [images] as a visual resource for future generations.
The members of Miyarrka Media go by many names. Each of us have names that link to ancestral places and stories. We have nicknames and balanda [non-Aboriginal] names too. What people call us depends on where we are and who we are talking with. Often, we use gurruṯu [kinship] terms. So that person you call ŋäṉḏi [mother] calls you waku [son/daughter] in return. The person you call märi [mother’s mother or mother’s mother’s brother] reciprocates by calling you gutharra [grandchild through the maternal line].
In the balanda world everyone needs a surname. It helps to organise paperwork in the clinic, the school, the tax office and social security databases. Yolŋu have adopted surnames that follow the father’s line. These highlight the connection to the groupings that anthropologists call clans, but Yolŋu mostly call tribes when speaking English, taking the term from the Bible. In this book these clan and tribe is used interchangeably. We are not interested in getting bogged down in those kinds of anthropological debates.
But names and naming practices do matter. A lot. We discussed them a lot while making the book and came up with agreed upon conventions following Gurrumuruwuy’s example. For although Paul Gurrumuwuy’s birth certificate lists his last name as Wungungmurra (a name that shows that he belongs to a specific lineage of the Dhalwaŋu clan) he prefers not to use it when he feels it is not necessary. So throughout in his career as a filmmaker, artist, actor and now as a yuṯa anthropologist, Gurrmumuruwuy has been asked to be credited without his balanda surname. When communicating with balanda he chooses to stick with Paul because it’s easy for them to remember and pronounce, and Gurrumuruwuy because this name, given to him by his märi, linking him directly to his ancestral homeland of Gurrumuru, expresses his Yolŋu identity in a strong and publicly suitable way.
All the members of Miyarrka Media follow this convention here, with the exception of James Ganambarr and Jennifer Deger.
For the photo media artists and the people within the bitja, we decided to list surnames in order to create a more comprehensive record for the future.
Finally, we want to let you know that if you are having trouble typing the word Yolŋu (or any other words with a ‘ŋ’), you can substitute the letters ‘ng’ so that Yolŋu looks this: Yolngu.