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Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa, Yukuwa, Larrakitj, 179cm
  • Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa, Yukuwa, Larrakitj, 179cm
  • Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa, Yukuwa, Larrakitj, 179cm
  • Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa, Yukuwa, Larrakitj, 179cm
  • Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa, Yukuwa, Larrakitj, 179cm
Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa, Yukuwa, Larrakitj, 179cm
Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa, Yukuwa, Larrakitj, 179cm
Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa, Yukuwa, Larrakitj, 179cm
Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa, Yukuwa, Larrakitj, 179cm

Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa, Yukuwa, Larrakitj, 179cm

$5,329.00
  • Aboriginal Artist - Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra
  • Community - Yirkala
  • Homeland - Gurrumuru
  • Aboriginal Art Centre - Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
  • Catalogue number - 4557/17
  • Materials - Earth pigments on Stringybark hollow pole
  • Size(cm) - H179 W15 (irregular shape)
  • Postage variants - Larrikitj is sent without the stand. We can help out having these made.
  • Orientation - Verticle

Yukuwa is one of the personal names of the artist and Yukuwa is the topic of this work. Almost a self-portrait. It was made just after her 2012 Best Bark winning painting. This motif first arose when she had been challenged about her right to paint Buyku the fishtrap imagery of her own clan and homeland by a family member. Rather than argue she retorted by painting imagery which in one sense is her own personal identity. The complaints inrelation to Buyku evaporated but Djirrirra persists with the Yukuwa imagery with the encouragement of her art centre.

This piece is a reference to Yirritja renewal ceremony which is by definition a shared communion of Yirritja moiety clans which does not relate to circumcision or mortuary rites. Spirits of deceased people are on a cyclical journey from their point of death to the reservoir of souls particular to their clan identity. But at these irregular ceremonies they all congregate for one last dance together before heading their separate ways. There are relationships between Yirritja moiety clans that are renewed through Yukuwa ceremony at particular sites which relate to the ritual exchange of sacred objects, song and dance.

Yukuwa is a yam whose annual reappearance is a metaphor for the increase and renewal of the people and their land. Traditionally the invitation to such a ceremony is presented as an object in the form of a yam with strings emanating from it with feathered flowers at the end. This is a suggestion of the kinship lines which tie groups together. The site referred to in this piece is in the area between Gangan and the sea known as Balambala described as the next river from Gangan. This is a cleared area which is an ancient ceremonial site at which special men’s ceremony involving both larrakitj (or Dhan’parr- bark coffin) and special yidaki occurred. An ancient hero known as Burruluburrulu danced here.

It is described as a meeting place for Dhalwaŋu, top Madarrpa (Dholpuyŋu) and Munyuku. These ‘renewal’ ceremonies in Yolŋu law occur irregularly when the time is right. They are independent of the funeral, circumcision and age grading ceremonies that occur all the time. They are held at specific natural clearings within the general Stringybark forest that covers most of Arnhem land.

The documentation of a different work detailing the Garma site at Gulkula (which is another of these sites) says as follows;

“This piece and the Festival and site itself flag reference to a class of Yirritja renewal ceremony which is by definition a shared communion of Yirritja moiety clans which does not relate to circumcision or mortuary rites. There are relationships between Yirritja moiety clans that are renewed through Yukuwa ceremony at particular sites which relate to the ritual exchange of sacred objects, song and dance.

Yukuwa is a yam whose annual reappearance is a metaphor for the increase and renewal of the people and their land. Traditionally the invitation to such a ceremony is presented as an object in the form of a yam with strings emanating from it with feathered flowers at the end. This is a suggestion of the kinship lines which tie groups together. The other sites which can host such a ceremony besides Gulkula include an area between Gangan and the sea known as Balambala described as the next river from Gangan. This is in the Dhalwaŋu coastal zone known as Garraparra.

Some of the dancers at 2003 Garma (who used a whistle in their ritual call and response) were Dhalwaŋu singing this site. It is described as a meeting place for Dhalwaŋu, top Madarrpa (Dholpuyŋu) and Munyuku. An ancient hero known as Burruluburrulu danced here. There is another naturally cleared site at Rurraŋala which is an analagous ‘ceremony ground of the gods’. These naturally cleared areas are ancient ceremonial sites at which special men’s ceremony involving both larrakitj (or Dhanbarr- bark coffin) and special yidaki occurred. Gulkula is another time honoured meeting place for such ceremonies. The stories of such sites also involve Waṯu (dogs), Garrtjambal (red kangaroos) and (Ŋerrk) cockatoos. Ŋerrk are the Yirritja moiety harbingers of death and therefore related to the mortuary aspect of the Larrakitj ceremony. The Gumatj ancestral hero/giant Ganbulabula called and presided over such a ceremony in ancestral time at Gulkula. During the ceremony a member of Dhamala (sea eagle) clan was misbehaving with various giggly young women of Matjurr (flying fox). This distracted people from their sacred observance and caused disharmony amongst the camp.

To express his displeasure and end the behaviour Ganbulabula threw the finely worked memorial pole he had been painting from the edge of the escarpment to the ocean below where it still exists imbuing these waters with special properties. And thus when the stringybark blossom attracting flying fox to the escarpment White breasted Sea Eagles still cruise the edge picking off less careful bats. The Gumatj leaders hold ceremony aimed at unifying people and paint and display Larrakitj. The multidimensionality of sacred time means that the songs of this place relate to the past the present and the future simultaneously.

In any event the conception is that when these ceremonies are held by mortals during the day the spirits conduct their own rituals at night. Indeed their nocturnal activities are often audible in the main camp during such ceremonies. It seems as if it is a necessary part of their farewell to this dimension to have this last ceremony.”

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.

Djirrirra (also known as Yukuwa) assisted her father, Yanggarriny Wunungmurra (1932-2003), in his Telstra Award winning painting of 1997 and continually up un l his death in 2003. She has also assisted her brother Nawurapu Wunungmurra, but now primarily paints her own works. Her father granted her this authority whilst he was alive. Her precise hand and geometric style has increasingly attracted enthusiastic interest from the art world. As she came to the notice of Buku-Larrnggay co-ordinators for her exquisite hand and innovative composition she was included in her first major exhibition and her first visit to the world outside of Arnhem Land, in a show at Ra Artspace in Darwin in 2006 which featured her and two other Gangan artists, Yumutjin Wunungmurra and Waturr Gumana. In 2007 she was selected for Cross Currents, a major art survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Her rise to a level of notice was cemented when she was announced Winner of the TOGA Northern Territory Contemporary Art Award in 2008. From here she was invited to her first solo show at Vivien Anderson Gallery in 2009. She has lived at the remote homeland of Gangan since she was born (before Western housing was erected) and has three children. She has exhibited in the US and China and in Australia with Vivien Anderson Gallery in Melbourne and Short street in Broome. In 2012 she followed her father and brother as a Telstra winner with Best Bark at the 29th NATSIAA with a new theme- Yukuwa. In Found at Annandale in 2013 she followed Gunybi Ganambarr into extending her use of media beyond naturally occurring ochres and bark to include recycled found industrial waste materials such as MDF and perspex louvres. In this year she again visited the US as part of a print collaboration between the Yirrkala Print Space and the Tamarind Institute where she worked with American Indigenous artists in Albuquerque. In 'Black and White' at Outstation Gallery in 2017 her lyrical Yukuwa (yam) inspired paintings on board featured in collaboration with an installation of her brothers Larrakitj. Yukuwa is one of the personal names of the artist and Yukuwa has become a distinct theme in her practice. This motif first arose when she had been challenged about her right to paint Buyku the fishtrap imagery of her own clan and homeland by a family member. Rather than argue she retorted by painting imagery which in one sense is her own personal identity.

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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