Mardarda and Njarlarla

In Esther’s first screen design, she depicts the story of Mardarda (bones) and Njarlarla (fire sticks) carried in a dilly bag, reminiscent of traditional ways of the Ndjebenna people.

‘Back in the old days, our people would use a ‘bush lighter’ for lighting fires, which was two pieces of special wood which would make fire easily. The old people carried a dilly bag containing the fire stick all times, when they moved camps.

Old people would always carry dilly bags, sometimes with water, honey, food or bones of our deceased people.

When someone passed away their body would be put on a high platform built from eucalyptus and paperbark. They would use a firestick to light a fire under the platform, and people would sing and dance around that platform to send the deceased’s spirit back to his or her country.

The body would then be left here for many months. When ready, the clan would return to collect the bones to take them back to the deceased’s homeland for burial.

To travel to the homeland, people would paint the bones with brown ochre and place them in a dillybag. When they reached the deceased’s homeland, people would sing together, place the bones in the lorrkkon and to leave them rest forever.”