Maman is the moaning or grief expressed by women of the dugong clan when their totem has been speared by young boy in pursuit of his initiation into manhood.
This moaning is part of an important ceremony called Zug Ngurrpai. The three women depicted in the print are symbolically feeding the slain dugong with their breasts.
A tusche etching process has been used to replicate the women’s tears that the artist likens to the shapes of the dugong drawings seen in the rock caves on his island of Badu.
The dugong is butchered, cooked and eaten by everyone except the parents of the boy who is the subject of the ceremony. The boy’s parents are beaten with branches while they are offered expressions of admiration on their son’s prowess. He is held up as a role model to those other young boys who have not yet captured their first dugong.
Song and dance accompanies the ceremony and at its conclusion, when all the dugong has been eaten, the participants are permitted to take any possessions they fancy from the parent’s house.