- Also known as
primary name: Garramatji
other name: Garrmattji
- individual; mythological figure/creature; Indigenous Australian; Male
- Ancestral dugong hunter of the Madarrpa clan, northeast Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia.
Notes from Eth Doc 1064: 'Garramatji and Burrak. Ancestral dugong hunters.
Based on an account by Miniyawany Marawili.
In ancestral times, two men, Garramatji and Burrak, were living on the beach at Yathikpa in Madarrpa country near Baniyala. They decided to hunt dugong, and so they went into the bush to get bark fibre to make a rope, balwurr, and they got a sapling for a harpoon, gundarrpa. They sat in the shade of a madirriny tree to make the rope and harpoon.
When they’d finished, they got in their canoe, miyangi, and went after dugong, djunungguyangu. They harpooned a dugong, but it swam out to the sacred rocks, dhakamayi, where the ancestral crocodile had thrown the fire. The dugong swam down through the fire dragging the canoe behind. The men cut the rope connecting the canoe to the harpoon point in the dugong, but they capsized and drowned. Their canoe was washed up on the shore and turned into a rock that’s still there today.
The seaweed gamata that the dugong eats grows near the sacred rock and moves in the water like tongues of fire. The Madarrpa clan design in the context of this story represents the seaweed, fire and the saltwater ‘boiling’ around the rocks.
When the people in those ancestral times realized that Garramatji and Burrak were dead, they were very upset. They shaped sand ridges and pits on the beach into a funeral ceremony ground, a yingapungapu, and they mourned for the dead men. Since that time, Madarrpa people have made these same canoe-shaped ceremonial grounds for funerals – the ancestral yingapungapu ground is still evident in the landforms at Baniyala.
The harpoon, the rope, the rock, the canoe, the dugong and the shady tree are all sacred to Madarrpa people and have special, powerful names. People still hunt dugong in the same way, making the rope and harpoon in the same way as did ancestral hunters.
This story and the associated designs, sites, knowledge and ceremony belong only to Madarrpa people and are part of their heritage, passed down from generation to generation.’