This sculpture is called Apu Kaz – translated, it is mother and baby. The carvings onto the back of the dugong – in language we call it Mineral. The one I put on this dugong, the bronze, the big one, is a traditional constellation story that is associated with the dugong and two currents. In my language, that constellation is called Kaigas aw usalal – it is the Milky Way constellation. Kaigas aw usalal also refers to the shovelhead shark. When the shark is distributed or we chase it, the dust it leaves behind or, when the shark is attacking something on the sand, the dark silt that it makes on the shallow part is what is called usalal.
So, in my language, Kaigas aw usalal refers to the shovelhead shark who took off and left that Milky Way behind. Now the story goes, and this is real, the shovelhead shark – the Milky Way – is almost like a squid shape. When it points to the tip of Australia (from Badu Island), to Cape York and Papua New Guinea during the night (this is to do with hunting), the current is called Guathath. It’s a good time to ﬁnd the dugong at night, even though they’re separated, but only in calm weather during that time of looking at that constellation.
When the dugong comes up out of the sea to breed, and we paddle in the dinghy it’s easy to catch them. When the constellation rotates about maybe seven, eight, nine, ten o’clock, before twelve o’clock (as if you are looking at a clock face), it lies across to Cape York and Papua New Guinea (when the current is called Guathath), then about twelve or one o’clock you can see it’s rotating and then it lies across the Indian Ocean and the Paciﬁc Ocean. That’s the time the current arrives strong and is called Yamaral Kulis. During the day dugong are good to hunt at Yamaral Kulis but, at night, it’s a little bit hard because the ocean is disturbed, so it gets wavy and you can still hear dugongs when they create waves and you can hear them breathing, but during the weak current (Guathath) you can hear them better.
Dennis Nona, 2007