Lost in the sandbar (Ilma - ceremonial emblem)
Illma is an all embracing term covering both open ceremonies performed by the Bardi and other Dampier Peninsula peoples. Iilma are composed and owned by individual men. They come to this ownership through inheritance of dance that they have received from the Rai spirits of dead men. Throughout most of Australia, constructed dance objects like these are taboo or secret. However, in this region they are used in public dances and ceremonies. When uses they are dramatic, echoing the epic nature of the 10 meter tides and landscape. Tides are a central feature of songs and symbolism in Bardi life.
Curatorial insightIlma is an all-embracing term covering both open ceremonies performed by the Bardi and other Dampierland peoples and the objects used in them. Ilma ceremonies are composed and owned by individual men. These men are said to have received the songs (words and music), and the form of the dances (choreography) from Rai spirits of dead men. The ilma emblems are derived from thread-cross artefacts, once originally made from hair or animal-fur string and constructed on frameworks of sticks, spears or, in some areas sacred boards. Throughout much of Australia such constructions are classed among the most important sacred objects. In the north Kimberley and Dampierland Peninsula they are primarily used in open or public dances. Balga dances – such as Wanalirri, composed by the late Wattie Ngerdu, Cyclone Tracy, composed by the late Geoffrey Mangalamarra, and Gurirr Gurirr, composed by the late Rover Thomas – all feature such emblems. (Akerman, Images of Power: Aboriginal art of the Kimberley, 1993)