An Ode To My Mother Biggibilla Yuwaalaraay.
Images of deceased persons may appear..
Blog Biggibilla and Yuwaalaraay map showing a red skull which depicts Yuwaalaraay country.
An Ode To My Mother Biggibilla Yuwaalaraay. Biggibilla artworks are traditional matrilineal songs & maps of our Star Elders and our ancestral matrilineal country in north-western New South Wales. I paint, sculpture & sing the Songlines (Yugal Bathii Ganmala) associated to my maternal grandmother. These Songlines belong to Bullimah, Yuwaalaraay (Euahlayi, Wollaroi, Yualaroi, Ualarai, Ularoi), Guwamu (Koamu), Ngemba (Ngayilmbaa), Weilwan (Wailwan), Bigambul, Weraerai, Gummaroi - Goomaroi - Kamilaroi (Gamilaraay), Yibatha Yibaay Wimullen Wimulda
"Yaliwunga Winanga Nginu Mari Yilambu" - Always Remember Your Indigenous Ancestors. (Biggibilla) ©
One of our most significant Yuwaalaraay gathering sites, which remains esoteric, only involved initiated, married couples - Medicine Women and Men (Wirranun Yinarr Giwirri). These inter-tribal, ceremonial gatherings occurred twice a year during the summer & winter solstices and involved Wirranun couples from the (matrilineal) eight language groups and forty two dialects.
These matrilineal songlines & maps can only be passed down through esoteric, initiation rituals performed through Yuwaalaraay sand engravings (Thawun Gunabah) which is the old, matrilineal cultural and spiritual process. This is the process I went through with my uncle, who was my matrilineal & spiritual mentor before he passed over.
I had met many exceptional teachers in my life up to this point, however, in my humble opinion, my uncle was the most profound knowledge-holder of esoteric Lore (Law). Since his passing over, I still continue to travel and meet many wise people in the world and I still believe his knowledge and wisdom was, and still is, unique and so very precious and sacred.
When my mother and her brother were the ages of 9 and 5 respectively, they were forcibly removed (or rather abducted) from their mother and put into terrible living conditions at Angledool Mission in 1921. They had a younger sister who was able to remain with their mother, however little is known of her whereabouts from that day onwards. Eleven other children were also abducted with my mother & uncle - they had become part of the now infamous "Stolen Generation". On arrival at the mission, my mother, being the eldest of the group, objected to the living conditions (sharing the goat's shed) and put up such resistance that the female superintendent promptly removed my mother from the group and took her down to the river and tried to drown her. Because she could!!!
Coincidentally, it was at this moment, that the Headmaster/teacher from Hebel township and his wife, were in Angledool to buy provisions. They witnessed the attempted murder and interfered, with the result they were able to take my mother to their home and consequently they later fostered her. I will write more about this in my Autobiography. My uncle on the other hand, remained on the mission until the age of 11 when he managed to escape in 1927. Incredibly, he found his way to "Dungaleah", a huge property where his mother and another 2,000 community members were incarcerated and forced to live and work - without pay. No indigenous person was allowed to leave the property without written consent from the "Aboriginal Protection Board". Also, no community members were allowed to speak their language and if they did and were overheard by non-indigenous landholders, they were either shot or jailed....... whichever was easiest. Even under these brutal conditions, my uncle was secretly initiated and taught the language right under the eyes and ears of their so called "protectors". This situation continued until all the indigenous people on Dungaleah finally revolted and walked off the property in unison in 1954.
From 1937 at the age of 21, my uncle became "head cocky" on Dungaleah, just at the time when the owner fell from his horse and was seriously injured. A stake in the ground pierced his spine and he became a paraplegic. My uncle then had to become the "legs" for this man, and carry him around on his back and help him mount & dismount horses for 17 years. Uniquely enough, after my uncle's funeral, I was approached the following day by the grandson of this property owner who broke down and cried and explained how sorry he was that my uncle had been forced to carry this burden for so long. As an aside, at my uncle's funeral, there were over 2,000 people who came from all over to pay their last respects.
Regarding my mother, she was once again removed, this time from her foster family in Stanthorpe when she was only 14 years old. She was now part of a disturbing practice known as "The Sixpence Programme". This Government programme forced indigenous girls to serve 4 years on non-indigenous properties as the domestic staff. For the duration of these 4 years, they were meant to be paid sixpence per week.... hence the name "The Sixpence Programme". In my mother's case, she was only paid twopence per week and this was only given to her in a lump sum at the end of her so-called employment. She was now 18 years old.
During this second incarceration, I believe my mother gave birth to other children as a result of rape. This belief came about from comments she made and painful and challenging conversations I had with her over the years. She was always very guarded and concerned in discussing her past and any wonder.....right up until her passing over, she would often warn me, "be careful son, the government will come and take you away". This fear never left her and this is something I will never forget, nor forgive!! Eventually, my dear mum turned 18, she then had to leave this property and find her own way back to her foster family, which apparently took her two years. As a result, I have no idea where my siblings are or if they are still alive. I can only imagine what grief she had to carry for the rest of her life over these traumatic events which were forced upon her at such a young age.
Eventually, in an endeavour to finally uncover all the gaps in my mother’s stories, I reached a point in my life whereby I needed to research my mother’s background because none of it was making sense to me. So, I put my martial arts career on hold and began this journey back to her country and my own connection to this ancient culture.
However, prior to this decision, I had been thinking of taking my family overseas for a holiday, so I applied for passports for them all, including my mother. This process took over 6 months and eventually we were shocked to discover that she was not even eligible for a passport because she was classified as a non-Australian. To obtain a passport for her, she would have to be registered as a “Citizen of Australia” and not as a National. They told us that my mother had been born in Ireland. The plot thickened.
Due to this untenable outcome regarding the passport and false information on government records, I changed my mind and decided to go on a secret mission to take my mother back to her country and reunite her with her family. It sounded like a plan!!! However, I had to lie and tell her we were going to Queensland to see her foster family & friends up there. My family were sworn to secrecy. Initially, my mother accepted this fabricated story until we reached the turn-off on the Newell Highway at Gilgandra, NSW. What happened next was also staggering, for me particularly. My mother knew instinctively where she was & tried to open the door of the car. My son, who was 10 years old at the time, had to grab hold of the door handle so she could not escape and I could continue to drive. He held that door handle for the next 95 kms until we reached Coonamble and took a break. My mother then began to calm down and accept the unacceptable. She was on her way home to country and family.
Tragically, my mother was so terrified of returning to her country that she would have rather jumped out of a moving car, than face the pain & suffering of her past. Poor darling. What was also intriguing, was the fact that she had been stolen when she was nine and had never travelled on this highway …. and yet she knew exactly where she was. How mystical. My resolve deepened. At this point, all the research & deep esoteric studies I had done over the years began to make sense. Why? Because I also had these deep intuitions and experiences. We had both been visited by our sacred lightning ball (Doongallah) before our 5th year. I will expand on this subject at a later date.
Sadly, it was not until the mid-1980's that I was able to finally reunite my mother with her brother and her community. They had been separated for 63 years. From this moment, as a result of all my previous esoteric studies I was able to be initiated into the old rituals and knowledge. This all started with my first sleep in which my uncle entered my Dreaming. And so began a deeply mysterious and profound awakening. The word “Biggibilla” means an echidna (spiny ant-eater) and is the matrilineal surname (Yaruthagaa) of my Yuwaalaraay lineage. Also associated to this name are my responsibilities as Ganmala (sacred guardian) of the Goomah and Mingah. The zoomorphic lines which feature in my paintings & sculptures come directly from my uncle’s (and ancestors) sand engravings. These engravings are Songlines transported to the canvas and overlaid with sacred instruments and fauna and flora relevant to each song.
Unfortunately, in today's society, many people dismiss the profound and sacred aspects of the Songlines because they themselves are cultural thieves. They are uninitiated and therefore unaware and ignorant of the depth and responsibility to the ancestors. They misconstrue and trivialise the past with abstract imagery which has no meaning and they contribute to the ongoing genocide of culture ... the "dumbing down" of ancestral knowledge and multi - dimensional links.
The Matrilineal link has not been severed entirely ... the Songlines are still being sung … so no matter where I live on the planet, I continue to sing and live in the Songlines (often referred to as The Dreaming).
My hereditary Songlines & Maps belong to the area Yuwaalaraay, marked on the Indigenous territorial map of Australia.
My Mother Biggibilla Yuwaalaraay beside my Artworks at the Melbourne Art Fair, Exhibition 1990.