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Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm
  • Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm
  • Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm
  • Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm
  • Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm
  • Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm
Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm
Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm
Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm
Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm
Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm

Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr, Djapu Design, Larrakitj, 170cm

$2,009.00
  • Aboriginal Artist - Buluŋguwuy #2 Munuŋgurr
  • Community - Yirkala
  • Homeland - Waṉḏaway
  • Aboriginal Art Centre - Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
  • Catalogue number - 6115/18
  • Materials - Earth pigments on Stringybark hollow pole
  • Size(cm) - H170 W15 (irregular shape)
  • Postage variants - Larrikitj are sent without the pictured stand but we can help out having these made locally
  • Orientation - Verticle

The cross-hatching grid pattern is the sacred design for the freshwaters of the Djapu clan at their homeland Wandawuy now an outstation about 150 kilometres south of Yirrkala and inland from Blue Mud Bay.

This Djapu clan outstation (and spiritual residence for Ancestral Beings Mäna the Shark and Bol’ŋu the Thunderman) is surrounded by permanent freshwater. Rains inspired by the actions of Bol’ŋu feed the rivers and fill the billabongs. Caƞish and mussels, freshwater crayfish and others feed the Yolŋu and wildlife. The waters are home for the shark Mäna.

The grid refers to the landscape of Wandawuy - a network of billabongs surrounded by ridges and high banks. Its structure also having a reference at one level to woven fish traps (that are depicted in the bottom left). Ancestral Hunters who set a trap here
to snare the Shark but to no avail. These Yolŋu are called Bärngbarng and Monu'a who came to cut the trees named Gu'uwu, Gathurrmakarr, Nyenyi, Rulwirrika and Gananyarra - all Dhuwa trees. They used straight young trees. And cut them with their
axes called Gayma'arri, Bitjutju.

Areas of the river are staked by the Yolŋu and branches interwoven through them. Then the water is polluted by a particular pulped bark that anaesthetises the Gaṉŋal (caƞish) that hobble to the surface. With nets constructed similarly to the beak of Galumay the Pelican, the Yolŋu wade through the waters scooping up the fish. It has been fished since Ancestral times. Gaṉŋal the caƞish, totem for the Djapu is ceremonially sung as is Galumay the pelican. Both these species frequent the waters of Waṉḏawuy.

Mäna the Ancestral Shark in its epic travels comes through this way. These ancestors try to trap Mäna in the freshwater by means of these traps in the waterways. They fail. The powers and physical strength of the Shark overcome the efforts of mere mortals. Mäna’s ire and thrashing tail smash the trap and muddy the water. They witness however the strength of Mäna and sing his actions, the thrashing of his tail for one, the muddying or contamination of the water.

The grid lines having reference to the trap, the cross-hatched squares referring to different states of the freshwater - the source of Djapu soul. At ceremony, appropriate participants for mortuary rites enter the shelter (woven together like the unsuccessful trap) where the deceased has been lying in state. Sacred spears tipped with stingray barbs, manifestations of Mäna’s teeth, stand up alongside the shelter. The sacred song cycles of Mäna in the water at Wandawuy are intoned with music from the Yidaki (didjeridu) and Bilma (clapsticks). At the prescribed time at the conclusion of ceremony the dancers crash through the deceased’s shelter imitating the actions of Mäna at the trap. This action has reference to the release of the deceased’s soul, back to the sacred waters of Wandawuy to be reunited with its ancestors awaiting rebirth.

Wandawuy literally means place of the Sharks head where in the larger context of the song cycles of Mana’s journey his head came to rest after being butchered and distributed through the land.

The Larrakitj had its traditional use for the Yolŋu of North east Arnhem Land as an ossuary or bone container erected as a memorial to a dead kinsman up to a decade after death. After death the body of the deceased was often ceremonially placed on a raised platform and left to the elements for an appropriate time. The area would then be abandoned until the next stage of the ritual.

This took place once it was determined that the essential eternal spirit of the deceased had completed its cyclical journey to the spring from which it had originated and would in time return again. This might be several years. Whilst the body was ‘lying in state’ others got wind of the death, perhaps by subliminal message and made preparations to journey to the site of mortuary. Usually enough time had elapsed for the bones of the deceased to be naturally cleansed on the platform. The essence of the soul within the bone was made ready for final rites when other outside participants necessary for its safe journey arrived. Ritual saw the bones of the deceased placed within the termite hollowed memorial pole for final resting. Mortuary ritual would end with the placement of the Larrakitj containing the bones standing in the bush. Over time the larrakitj and its contents would return to mother earth.

The Larrakitj has often been referred to as the mother’s womb. Once sedentary mission communities were established in Arnhem Land it became impractical to abandon permanent communities and outlawed to expose corpses on platforms. However the cosmology of the Yolŋu and the essence of ritual mortuary ceremony remains just as important. Larrakitj continues to be produced as the equivalent of headstones or to contain the personal effects of a deceased (which might be dangerous unless removed from the living because of the emanations imbued by contact with the deceased).

A further role for this cultural form is as a fine art object and an instructional tool for younger generations. Artworks of this nature have multiple layers of metaphor and meaning which give lessons about the connections between an individual and specific pieces of country (both land and sea), as well as the connections between various clans but also explaining the forces that act upon and within the environment and the mechanics of a spirit’s path through existence. The knowledge referred to by this imagery deepens in complexity and secrecy as a person progresses through a life long learning process.

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Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre is the Indigenous community-controlled art centre of Northeast Arnhem Land. Located in Yirrkala, a small Aboriginal community on the north-eastern tip of the Top End of the Northern Territory, approximately 700km east of Darwin. Our primarily Yolŋu (Aboriginal) staff of around twenty services Yirrkala and the approximately twenty-five homeland centres in the radius of 200km.

In the 1960’s, Narritjin Maymuru set up his own beachfront gallery from which he sold art that now graces many major museums and private collections. He is counted among the art centre’s main inspirations and founders, and his picture hangs in the museum. His vision of Yolŋu-owned business to sell Yolŋu art that started with a shelter on a beach has now grown into a thriving business that exhibits and sells globally.

Buku-Larrŋgay –  “the feeling on your face as it is struck by the first rays of the sun (i.e. facing East) 

Mulka – “a sacred but public ceremony.”

In 1976, the Yolŋu artists established ‘Buku-Larrŋgay Arts’ in the old Mission health centre as an act of self-determination coinciding with the withdrawal of the Methodist Overseas Mission and the Land Rights and Homeland movements.

In 1988, a new museum was built with a Bicentenary grant and this houses a collection of works put together in the 1970s illustrating clan law and also the Message Sticks from 1935 and the Yirrkala Church Panels from 1963.

In 1996, a screen print workshop and extra gallery spaces was added to the space to provide a range of different mediums to explore. In 2007, The Mulka Project was added which houses and displays a collection of tens of thousands of historical images and films as well as creating new digital product. 

Still on the same site but in a greatly expanded premises Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre now consists of two divisions; the Yirrkala Art Centre which represents Yolŋu artists exhibiting and selling contemporary art and The Mulka Project which acts as a digital production studio and archiving centre incorporating the museum.

 

Text courtesy: Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre




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