Christine Holroyd 'Waii (Jellyfish) Totem', 2020, 61 x 91 cm, acrylic on canvas
"This story is about all the Waii (jellyfish) we see in our waters and that wash up on our beaches. This story comes from my mother's country at the mouth of the Holroyd River. We are not allowed to take Tea-Tree bark from any of the trees except for one big, old tree. We are not allowed to cut wood for spears from the big tree. If my father caught someone doing this, they would be in big trouble, and possibly get speared or beaten. We rip the bark off the big tree and use it for many purposes such as making bowls, sleeping mats, plates and starting fires. When we take bark from our big old tree, we give the tree cooked fish, served on a plate on the ground. This is our way of saying thank-you; I remember seeing this tree when I was young and had my first child, Christine. If someone takes bark from any other tree in the area, our waters will fill with waii, making it bad for fishing and people will get stung. If bark is removed from the southern side of the trees, waters from the south will become infested with waii. If bark is removed from the northern side of the tree, our northern waters will be inundated with waii. It is like a curse being put on the water and people in a certain direction. Only someone who does not know this story, usually an outsider, would do this. If we do not thank the big tree for its bark with cooked fish, the same thing will happen. Everything can be made right if someone who belongs to our country takes the bark that was improperly taken and ties it back onto the tree. Then the waii will go away. If this is not done, the waii will stay, and our people will have to the camp up river. We will stay in that new camp for a couple of weeks. When we return to the coast the waii will be gone."
As told by Jeannie Holroyd