Mädayin 2.0: Yolngu sacred imagery, authority and the value of remediation

Abstract : In this presentation, I make use of the concept of remediation (Bolter & Grusin, 1999) to explore some ways in which the Yolngu of north-east Arnhem Land imagine and re-create “authorized sensational forms” (Meyer, 2008) for experiencing and sharing particular aspects of their ancestral Law or mädayin – a term which broadly encompasses clan-owned clusters of objects, designs, songs and dances of great power and beauty derived from the actions of ancestral beings on specific tracts of lands. Rather than focusing on one particular medium, I consider the intermedial relations at play in the reproduction of select visual expressions of mädayin in a variety of new forms such as bark, cloth, concrete, photographs and film. I suggest that, in this context, the value of these material remediations resides partly in their ability to sustain cumulative sensuous effects that reproduce particular Yolngu ways of seeing and knowing. As such, the issue of authority over the creation and circulation of these new mädayin images lies at the heart of the matter. I argue that sacred imagery perennialised in new visual media does not freeze ritual forms and structures, but rather locates them in a dynamic web of ancestral connections and social relations, providing blueprints for future ritual action. Contrary to common views that foresee in Aboriginal uses of reproductive technologies the inevitable reification of ritual life, leading to situations where people just “copy” what they see on historically or scientifically sanctified visual records, I argue that Yolngu ways of perceiving mädayin images stimulate forms of repetition that are specifically valued for their generative capacity.
Keywords : media images ritual
Document type :
Conference papers
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Contributor : Jessica de Largy Healy <>
Submitted on : Monday, February 29, 2016 - 6:04:50 PM
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Jessica de Largy Healy. Mädayin 2.0: Yolngu sacred imagery, authority and the value of remediation. The Human in the World, the World in the Human, Australian Anthropological Society, Nov 2013, Canberra, Australia. ⟨hal-01280592⟩



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