Ngalyipi Jukurrpa (Snake Vine Dreaming) – Yanjirlpiri

The country associated with this ‘ngalyipi Jukurrpa’ (snakevine [Tinospora smilacina] Dreaming) is located at Yanjirlpiri (meaning ‘star’ in Warlpiri) (Mt. Nicker) to the west of Yuendumu. The ‘kirda’ (owners) of this Dreaming are Napaljarri/Nungarrayi women and Japaljarri/Jungarrayi men.

‘Ngalyipi’ (snakevine) is a green creeper that climbs up the trunks and branches of trees and shrubs. The plant is found on sandy spinifex plains and sandhills. ‘Ngalyipi’ is frequently depicted in paintings due to its many uses and its great ceremonial importance. The vine can be used as a shoulder strap to carry ‘parraja’ (coolamons) and ‘ngami’ (water carriers). The plant also has medicinal uses; its vines are used as tourniquets, and its leaves and vines are used as bandages for wounds. Warlpiri sometimes also chew the leaves to treat severe colds. ‘Ngalyipi’ stems can be pounded between stones and tied around the forehead to cure headaches. In men’s initiation, ‘ngalyipi’ is used to tie the ‘witi’ (ceremonial poles) to the shins of the dancing initiates, and to tie ‘yukurruyukurru’ (dancing boards) to dancers’ bodies. The initiation ceremonies associated with the ‘ngalyipi’ Dreaming at Yanjirlpiri are for the sons and grandsons of Japaljarri and Jungarrayi men. Napaljarri and Nungarrayi women dance at these ceremonies, and then look away and block their ears when the men dance. This ‘witi’ ceremony is performed at night under the stars.

The importance of Yanjirlpiri cannot be overemphasized, as young boys are brought here to be initiated from as far away as Pitjantjatjara country to the south and from Lajamanu to the north. A number of major Dreaming tracks pass through Yanjirlpiri in addition to the ‘ngalyipi Jukurrpa’ (snakevine Dreaming), including ‘karnta Jukurrpa’ (womens’ Dreaming) and ‘wati-jarra Jukurrpa’ (two men Dreaming). Yanjirlpiri is also important due to its association with a major ‘janganpa Jukurrpa’ (brush-tailed possum [Trichosurus vulpecula] Dreaming).

In Warlpiri paintings, traditional iconography is used to represent the Jukurrpa and other elements. In many paintings of this Jukurrpa, sinuous lines are used to represent the ‘ngalyipi’ (snake vine). Straight lines are used to represent the ‘witi’ (ceremonial poles) and ‘karlangu’ (digging sticks).