Burrŋanydji #2 Gaykamaŋu, Wuyal, 134x58cm Bark
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- Aboriginal Artist - Burrŋanydji #2 Gaykamaŋu
- Community - Yirrkala
- Homeland - Yirrkala
- Aboriginal Art Centre - Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
- Catalogue number - 2100-21
- Materials - Earth pigments on Stringybark
- Size(cm) - H134 W58 D0.6 (irregular shape)
- Postage variants - Artwork posted flat and ready to hang with a metal mount for stability and hanging
- Orientation - Wired to hang as displayed
This work is about Wuyal, the ancestral sugarbag man, an important ancestor of the Marrakulu clan of northeast Arnhem Land. This painting symbolizes his journey during which he named important sites and certain animals. The painting refers also to the continuation of the Marrakulu culture in dance, song, and ceremony, which are performed by current generations who have inherited this knowledge and culture from ancestral figures such as Wuyal. This story refers also to important Dhuwa moiety ancestors called the Wawilak sisters. Wuyal was the first man to look for any homeland for the Marrakulu people. He began a journey from Gurka’wuy traveling via Yuḏuyuḏu to Cape Shield, up to Trial Bay, and along the course of the Goyder River until he came to Nhulun, or Mt. Saunders. Traveling along with Wuyal, was Ganyt'jalala. These men are symbolic of the Märi-Guthara (grandparent-grandchild) relationship which describes the relationship between Ḏäṯiwuy and Marrakulu clans. Wuyal carried with him tools for hunting animals and for collecting wild honey or sugarbag. The dilly bag, Banduk, worn around his neck, was used to carry the sugarbag called guku. Wuyal used a stone axe, djalpaṯ, to cut down trees in his search for sugarbag. He also carried a stone-headed spear for hunting rock wallabies, Ḏulaku. The stone head of the spear, Guyarra, is made from stone found at a place called Nilipitji. The shaft of the spear is called guṉḏit. Also carried was gaḻpu, a spearthrower. In their ancestral travels, these men traveled alone without wives and conducted what was mens’ business in ceremony. Wuyal’s ceremonial ground where he danced and conducted sacred ceremony, a place near Buffalo Creek and Mt. Saunders, is called Wandjipuy.
The tools were also used in shaping the land. Trees cut down by Wuyal in the search for sugarbag, turned into rivers. The Gurka’wuy river was made in this way. Wuyal also named places by throwing his boomerang, Gunyalili, and giving names to the places where it fell to the ground. From Mt. Saunders he threw his Gunyalili and named a place called Gäluru in this way. Bees are the creators of the honey from these flowers. The continuum between the environment, the art and the sacred foundation of the Marrakulu is completed when the Marrakulu dance as bees in their ceremony elbows extended, hands clutching stringybark leaves which vibrate as wings.
In many ways, the harvesting and material production to create bark paintings is an art in itself. The bark is stripped from Eucalyptus stringybark. It is generally harvested from the tree during the wet season. Two horizontal slices and a single vertical slice are made into the tree, and the bark is carefully peeled off. The smooth inner bark is kept and placed in a fire. After firing, the bark is flattened and weighted to dry flat. Once dry, the bark becomes a rigid surface and is ready to paint upon.
Djawakan Marika, Yilpirr Wanambi, Wukun Wanambi and Nambatj Munu+ïgurr Harvesting stringybark for artists Photo credit: David Wickens
Wanapa Munu+ïgurr, Yilpirr Wanambi and Wukun Wanambi harvesting stringybark. Photo credit: David Wickens
Wanapa and Nambatj Munu+ïgurr firing a bark to start the flattening process. Photo credit: David Wickens
Arnhem Land paintings are characterised by the use of fine crosshatched patterns of clan designs that carry ancestral power: the crosshatched patterns, known as rarrk in the west and miny’tji in the east, produce an optical brilliance reflecting the presence of ancestral forces.
These patterns are composed of layers of fine lines, laid onto the surface of the bark using a short-handled brush of human hair, just as they are painted onto the body for ceremony.
Rerrkiwaŋa Munuŋgurr painting her husbands design Gumatj fire or Gurtha. Photo credit: Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
The artist’s palette consists of red and yellow ochres of varying intensity and hues, from flat to lustrous, as well as charcoal and white clay(pictured above). Pigments that were once mixed with natural binders such as egg yolk have, since the 1960s, been combined with water-soluble wood glues.
Naminapu Maymuru White collecting gapan white clay used for painting. Photo credit: Edwina Circuitt
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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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