Milpirri Banner - YARLA (Bush Potato/Yam)
Lajamanu, North Tanami Desert, Northern Territory, Australia.
Yarla (bush potato/yam). This is a different yam dreaming from the green group banner. Henry Cook Jakamarra states that the circles are all the mulju (soakages) around the central circle which is a place called Yumurrpa.
Belonging to Skin Groups:
Jupurrula, Jakamarra, Napurrurla and Nakamarra (Red Group)
At Yumurrpa (north of Yuendumu), you can crawl under ground and there is limestone and a spring underneath. At Yumurrpa there is water all year around, if you crawl in.
Battle of the Yams:
This yam is part of the well-known dreaming which is sometimes called the battle of the yams. “The Dreaming or Jukurrpa Stories that relate to bush yam can focus on its propagation to promote abundance, and can also reflect on the traditional obligations to equally share access to food. The Warlpiri creation story that comes from the Yumurrpa site, north of Yuendumu on the edge of the Tanami Desert in Central Australia, is one example of this. The Ancestors of the Yarla or large Bush Yam were in conflict with the Ancestors of the smaller Wapirti white yam. They fought a pitched battle over the rights to the site where the yams were created at Yumurrpa, and therefore were fighting over access to these mainstays of bush food. The custodians of the site maintain the ceremonies that record this battle waged by their Dreamtime Ancestors, and recognize the message that their Ancestors are telling them. This is a message of fairness of distribution of food, to avoid creating violence and disruption in society.” (Yarla Bush Yam Dreaming by David Wroth, Japingka Gallery, 2015)
Further Reading: Wapurtarlikirli: The Battle at Yumurrpa by Liddy Nakamarra Nelson.
This scene from the story describes Warlpiri ritualised fighting (while sitting) with stone knives.
“They all slaughtered each other, they killed each other off. Then the two fathers of their people, those, the two elders sat down to fight each other, the two most important men, Ngardilpi and Wapurtarli, big yam and little yam. Threateningly they sat down. Savagely they wounded each other..” (Warlpiri dreamings and histories, Yimikirli: newly recorded sayings from aboriginal elders of Central Australia / translated by Peggy Rockman Napaljarri and Lee Cataldi. Walnut Creek, Calif. Altamira Press, c1994)
Peggy Rockman Napaljarri who was one of the translators of this story (with other women from Lajamanu) worked on Tracks Dance Companies research project exploring the contemporary dance language that originates from Australian Warlpiri (desert) and Tiwi (Top End) dance forms - Between Foot and Voice. Link to this project by clicking here
Bardi Bardi (Henry Jakamarra Cook), September 2012
See this map of where the Bush Potato (Yarla) grows.
Season: May to December.
See a Warlpiri seasonal calendar
Hunting for Yarla:
See this video of a family collecting Yarla at Puyurru
“A family are looking for bush potato, a much-loved favourite. Women using tools to dig up the potato show us that it takes great effort to gather it – but, we are told, the expenditure of energy is worth it.”
Families are in Lajamanu and Yuendumu. Young people looking for more information in Lajamanu could talk with the Cook, Lewis, Walker or Mathew’s families.
The other Yam:
The little yam referred to in the Battle of the Yams story is Vigna Lanceolata (Bush Carrot, Pencil Yam) an important Warlpiri bush food. In Warlpiri it is called ngarlajiyi.
Ngarlajiyi ngulaji wita yarlapiya, manu wapirtipiya miyi ngurrju. Karlami kalu watingki manu karntangku karrungka pirntipirnti, manu pilipilirla wirringka ngarlajiyiji.
Ngarlajiyi is like a small yarla yam, and is like wapirti, a good vegetable. Men and women dig it along creek banks and water-courses.
Source: Dictionary Source: Laughren, M., K. L. Hale, and Warlpiri Lexicology Group, 2005 Warlpiri-English Encyclopaedic Dictionary. (Accessed Via Kirrkirr Interface to Electronic Files.) University of Queensland.