Datjirri #1 Wunungmurra

Date of Birth - 09.05.1959
Moiety - Yirritja
Homeland - Gurrumuru
Clan - Dhalwangu
Clan Language - Dhay'yi


Datjirri #1 is well known as a yidaki man both in his own culture and to didjeridu fans around the world. He makes high quality, usually large - sometimes extreme - instruments. Often they are finely finished with beautiful plain wood, or sometimes carved and painted by him and his wife Djilirrma Mununggurr, daughter of deceased great artist and Djapu clan leader Mutitjpuy Mununggurr and current high profile artist Gulumbu Yunupingu, and sister to well known yidaki player Milkayngu Mununggurr. The #1 after his name is because Datjirri has a "son" by Yolngu kinship, or nephew by ours, who is also called Datjirri, but who is not a yidaki maker. Datjirri #1 tells his own story below.

I was born at Caledon Bay, child of Gandhitja #1 Wunungmurra (father) and Gurrungungurrungul Mununggurr (Mother). When I was very young my parents shifted to Gurrumuru where I spent most of my childhood.

At Gurrumuru I spent a lot of time with my fathers (through kinship classification) Burrngupurrngu (Bruce) Wunungmurra and twin brother Djalawu (John) Wunungmurra. These two men are well known amongst Yolngu for their talents of yidaki making and playing. They were taught by Bunggul "professionals" Manydjarri #1 (Wilson) Ganambarr and Yangarriny Wunungmurra. This information was passed on to me from an early age. As a young child (5 years old) I would accompany Burrngupurrngu and Djalawu on lengthy bush trips where I was shown how to identify and make good yidaki. We would often travel (on foot) between Gurrumuru and Rorruwuy and sometimes as far west as Gapuwiyak and Ramingining. As a result, I observed many different styles of manikay (song) and by "listening to every beat" I was quick to learn. My talents were soon noticed and my formal training as a yidaki player began. I became a highly sought after yidaki player by Yolngu from different regions and I remember being asked many times by the "old people" to play in ceremony.

Between the ages of 10 and 16 I stayed at Yirrkala mission in a big house with other Yolngu kids. We would go to school there and I learnt english as well as how to work with tools. It was very strict but I am grateful that I went through it now because I learnt a lot. I would go back to Gurrumuru in the holidays to stay with my mother and father.When I was staying at Yirrkala, I got chosen to perform yidaki in the 'Pacific Festival'. I flew down to Sydney and went to Tahiti, Germany and Hawaii for performances. I met David Gulpilil on the plane - he was one of the dancers. It was "manymak (good) time".

When I was around 20 years old I was playing at a Marrtjiri ceremony at Milingimbi. It was a celebration where my clan, the Dhalwangu, were giving to the Gupapuyngu. During this ceremony my nose began bleeding because of how much I had been playing. The doctor at Milingimbi said it was serious and suggested that I stop as I could be harmed if I continued. From then on I focussed on making yidaki.

During the 80's I made a lot of 'special' yidaki for bunggul (ceremony) - not for sale. Later on in the 90's I was asked to make yidaki for Yothu Yindi. One day when I was sitting at Biranybirany with my wife Djilirrma we thought of carving or engraving yidaki. We tried it and it was good. Today we make engraved and painted yidaki.

When I'm in the bush I look for the right shape. I'll tap it and if it sounds manymak I'll cut it down and test it. The sound is important, so if it's not right I'll leave it.

Datjirri #1 YidakiDatjirri #1 YidakiDatjirri #1 Yidaki Extreme
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