Translation: Spirit of a woman.

Photograph by Russell James. Collaborative art by Clifton Bieundurry (AUS).

4’10” x 7’ archival inkjet on canvas with acrylic and ochre applications.

Pirlirr is an expression of spirit that comes from land, culture and family. The connection of Aboriginal people to ‘country’ is integral to the continuity of cultural beliefs and practices. Pirlirr underpins the importance of family in how the spirit of Aboriginal culture is maintained and how the spirit of an individual is shaped.

In my traditional lands every living and nonliving thing has a spirit (in the painting these are represented by the outer tips of the large design) , when elements of all these spirits come together they form a pirlirr (human soul) (the central point of each ‘star’).

This pirlirr will roam the land, sometimes for years or even decades, in search of the parents of an unborn child who will carry this pirlirr. When the pirlirr finds the right parents it transfers itself into a totem (jarriny), which comes in the form of an animal and while in the totem it will guide this animal into path of the parent/s.

For traditional people with whom the totem makes contact, the animal is hunted and eaten for food; but for non- Indigenous people the pirlirr will guide the jarriny in the path of the parents and makes itself known that it has found the Mother/Father of carrier of this pirlirr. The totem is transferred into the spirit of the unborn child. After the carrier human has passed on the spirit disperses back into the earth from where it came, and the process begins all over again.