Special Yiḏaki and their Stories

At this time, the consensus of the Yolŋu of this area is not to share new details of madayin, or secret-sacred business, with the public on this website. Normal policy is that anything that is open to everyone in the Yolŋu community, from senior men to young girls and even dogs, as Badikupa suggests elsewhere on this website, is open to the non-Yolŋu public. Further topics or details are not. These public stories are often called the outside stories, as opposed to the many layers of inside stories that exist in Yolŋu rom.

Djambawa names 4 yiḏaki types – but the stories can only be shared by the clans that own them.

Yolŋu rom is very strict about release of knowledge. There is a time and place for learning, both for Yolŋu and non-Yolŋu who are learning about Yolŋu life. There is power – even danger – inherent in deep Yolŋu knowledge. “I want to know” is not a good enough reason to be told anything. You learn at the proper time of your life.

Wukuṉ Wanambi discusses the depth of yidaki knowledge, and the fact that it takes time to learn.

Wukuṉ speaks of fears of sharing deeper knowledge about yidaki and lack of mutual sharing.

Buwathay Munyarryun, with Mirrwatŋa and Ŋoŋu, tells how to learn deeper knowledge from Yolŋu – live with them.

While we have discussed some differences among yidaki that are used in public clan songs, most of these could be called simple everyday yidaki. These yidaki which are for the use and enjoyment of everyone here in Arnhem Land are also for the use and enjoyment of everyone around the world. There are also more specific ceremonial instruments that belong to individual clans and specific ceremonies and are not regularly seen in public in Arnhem Land. Therefore they will not be shown on this website.

Badikupa Gurruwiwi echoes Wukuṉ and Buwathay’s thoughts. First you play the normal way, then in time with Yolŋu, you can learn more. Yolŋu do not ask for knowledge, they only experience it in ceremony.

Badikupa speaks of the harshness of Yolŋu law. He could be killed for sharing knowledge that he shouldn’t!

Djambawa Marawili talks about dhuyu, or sacred, versus dhudi, or bottom/fundamental story, and individual clan ownership of knowledge.

There are however a few specific but less secret yidaki that have been shared publicly before, two of which were shared by a small group of elders of four different clans at the 2004 Garma Festival Yidaki Forum. These will be presented on the following two pages.

The 2004 Garma Yiḏaki Forum, presented by Djalu' Gurruwiwi, Gawirriṉ Gumana, Galarrwuy Yunupiŋu and Djambawa Marawili.