Jacob Nayinggul

Jacob Nayinggul painted with red ochre at the funeral ceremony for the repatriated ancestors

Jacob Nayinggul (circa 1940-2012) is the main interviewee in Etched in Bone. He worked closely with the filmmakers in determining how the 1948 bone theft and the subsequent repatriation could be presented to a wider public. Nayinggul was a senior lawman and one of the last people in west Arnhem Land to be born in the bush. He was still a baby when his parents settled in Gunbalanya (also known as Oenpelli Mission). In that polyglot community he learned a number of the local languages and was initiated into the Wubarr ceremony. As a youth he came under the tutelage of several senior lawmen including the renowned painter Paddy Compass Namatbara. As we see in the film, Nayinggul was also an eloquent speaker of English which he learned from the Anglican missionaries at Gunbalanya. This allowed him to become an accomplished interpreter, educator, negotiator, and champion of the rights of ‘T.O.s’, as the traditional owners of Aboriginal land are often known in the area. Alongside Yvonne Margarula and Bill Niedjie, he was a fierce opponent of uranium mining. He was also a pivotal figure in the establishment of Kakadu National Park and the opening of Gunbalanya to visitors. As seen in the film, he led the 2011 burial ceremony for the repatriated human remains. Mr Nayinggul’s appearance in Etched in Bone has been approved by his descendants.

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