Jakarda Wuka (Too Many Stories)

Narratives of Rock Art from Yanyuwa Country in Northern Australia's Gulf of Carpentaria

li-Yanyuwa li-Wirdiwalangu (Yanyuwa Elders), Liam M. Brady, John Bradley, and Amanda Kearney

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Format: paperback
348 pages
ISBN: 9781743328774

Publication: 01 May 2023
Series: Tom Austen Brown Studies in Australasian Archaeology
Publisher: Sydney University Press

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“…ngabaya painted all this, you know when we were kids we would come here and look and sometimes the paintings would change, they were always changing.” Annie a-Karrakayny

Fully illustrated, Jakarda Wuka (Too Many Stories) draws on a combined 70+ years of collaborative research involving Yanyuwa Elders, anthropologists, and an archaeologist to tell a unique story about the rock art from Yanyuwa Country in northern Australia’s southwest Gulf of Carpentaria.  

Australia’s rock art is recognised globally for its antiquity, abundance, distinctive motifs and the deep and abiding knowledge Indigenous people continue to hold for these powerful symbols. However, books about Australian rock art jointly written by Indigenous communities, anthropologists, and archaeologists are extremely rare.

Combining Yanyuwa and western knowledge, the authors embark on a journey to reveal the true meaning of Yanyuwa rock art. At the heart of this book is the understanding that a painting is not just a painting, nor is it an isolated phenomenon or a static representation. What underpins Yanyuwa perceptions of their rock art is kinship, because people are kin to everything and everywhere on Country.

Jakarda Wuka highlights the multidimensional nature of Yanyuwa rock art: it is an active social agent in the landscape, capable of changing according to different circumstances and events, connected to the epic travels and songs of Ancestral Beings (Dreamings), and related to various aspects of Yanyuwa life such as ceremony, health and wellbeing, identity, and narratives concerning past and present-day events.

In a time where Indigenous communities, archaeologists, and anthropologists are seeking new ways to work together and better engage with Indigenous knowledges to interpret the “archaeological record”, Jakarda Wuka delivers a masterful and profound narrative of Yanyuwa Country and its rock art.

This project was supported by the Australian Research Council and the McArthur River Mine Community Benefits Trust.

Prof. Amanda Kearney, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. Her research involves addressing themes of Indigenous experience, ways of knowing, land rights and the prevailing impact of settler colonial violence on Indigenous lives and lands and waters. Her research has developed with the kind support of Yanyuwa families, the Indigenous owners of land and sea in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia.

Assoc. Prof. John Bradley, Monash Indigenous Studies Centre, Monash University. John has worked alongside Indigenous communities in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory for more than 30 years. In that time he’s developed a close bond with the local Yanyuwa people and is now among a tiny minority of people who speak Yanyuwa fluently.

li-Yanyuwa li-Wirdiwalangu (Yanyuwa Elders) are an Aboriginal Australian people of the Northern Territory who live in the coastal region inclusive of and opposite to the Sir Edward Pellew Group of Islands in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.

Assoc. Prof. Liam M. Brady, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University. His research is designed to challenge traditional, western-oriented approaches to interpreting and understanding the archaeological record, generate new insights into deep-time social interaction, and draw attention to new ways of thinking about partnership-based research practice with Indigenous communities.

List of figures
List of maps
List of tables
Foreword by Ian McNiven
Foreword by Peter Hiscock

  1. A story about Saltwater People and their rock art
  2. A framework to understand Yanyuwa rock art: kinship and relationships
  3. Creative expressions and rock art in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria
  4. Rock art of Wuyaliya clan Country
  5. Rock art of Wurdaliya clan Country
  6. Rock art of Rrumburriya clan Country
  7. Rock art of Mambaliya-Wawukarriya clan Country
  8. Mainland rock art: Wurdaliya and Rrumburriya
  9. The importance of rock art and Country for Yanyuwa People

“*Jakarda Wuka *demonstrates the complexity of Aboriginal knowledge and ways of knowing. The book provides a powerful exposition of the place of art – and all heritage – in the relationships among people, Country, Law, lore, and the spirit world in the past and in the present.”

Annie Ross   Ethnoarchaeology

“This is a significant contribution to the Australian and global rock art and ethnographic canon. Truly, there are jakarda wuka – too many stories – and it is illuminating and humbling to have access to those here provided.”

Dr Sven Ouzman   Australian Archaeology

“This is a special collaboration between Yanyuwa elders, anthropologists and archaeologists. It aims to tell the story behind the rock art in southwest Gulf of Carpentaria. It comes with maps, and glorious photographs of works you may never see with your own eyes, with the aim of explaining as much as can be told about the songlines, the landscape, country and kin.”

Caroline Overington   The Australian

“This book allows the reader to enter into a way of seeing and understanding rock art as presence in the landscape, also reflecting and participating in the transference of knowledge across the generations. Rock art has been an abiding presence in the life of Yanyuwa people in their Country and the book shows how they have continued to live with it through changing times.”

Professor Howard Morphy  

“This beautifully realized book reveals new understandings of indigenous epistemologies, and in doing so forces us to question our acceptance of the ideas of revelation and discovery that underpin so many Western academic disciplines, including anthropology and archaeology. The book will certainly take its place alongside the canon of literature on indigenous graphic and visual systems in Australia, and will be widely read by rock art researchers globally.”

Professor Andrew Meirion Jones  

“Australia has many extraordinary bodies of rock art – paintings, stencils, prints, engravings and, in some parts of northern Australia, figures made out of beeswax. One of the lesser-known regions is the Gulf Country rock art of northern Australia. In this compelling, beautifully illustrated book, Gulf County rock art is explored from the perspective of Yanyuwa Elders, whose ancestors made the imagery. Jakarda Wuka is the result of a combined 70 years of collaborative research between the Yanyuwa and academics but also tens of thousands of years of traditional knowledge handed down through countless generations. I highly recommend this fascinating book that will be of interest to a wide range of people.”

Distinguished Professor Paul Taçon  

Format: paperback
Size: 254 × 178 × 20 mm
348 pages
Copyright: © 2023
ISBN: 9781743328774
Publication: 01 May 2023
Series: Tom Austen Brown Studies in Australasian Archaeology