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Galuma Maymuru, Yalata, 81x33cm Bark
  • Aboriginal Art - Galuma Maymuru, Yalata, 81x33cm Bark
  • Aboriginal Art - Galuma Maymuru, Yalata, 81x33cm Bark
  • Aboriginal Art - Galuma Maymuru, Yalata, 81x33cm Bark
  • Aboriginal Art - Galuma Maymuru, Yalata, 81x33cm Bark
Aboriginal Art - Galuma Maymuru, Yalata, 81x33cm Bark
Aboriginal Art - Galuma Maymuru, Yalata, 81x33cm Bark
Aboriginal Art - Galuma Maymuru, Yalata, 81x33cm Bark
Aboriginal Art - Galuma Maymuru, Yalata, 81x33cm Bark

Galuma Maymuru, Yalata, 81x33cm Bark

  • Aboriginal Artist - Galuma Maymuru
  • Community - Yirkala
  • Homeland - Djarrakpi
  • Aboriginal Art Centre - Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
  • Catalogue number - 3303P-15
  • Materials - Earth pigments on Stringybark
  • Size(cm) - H81 W33 D1 (irregular)
  • Postage variants - Artwork posted flat and ready to hang with a metal mount for stability and hanging
  • Orientation - Ready to hang as pictured but OK to hang horizontally on metal frame

This work depicts early events during Ancestral (and present) times at Yalata close to the Dhudi-Djapu clan homeland of Dhuruputjpi (about three hours drive South West from Yirrkala). It is a coastal fringe area, this Dhudi Djapu homeland, that has territory leading up a river through plains country behind an area of coast on Blue Mud Bay.

The plain is tidal and during the wet seasons it is flooded by the rains and tidal surge creating areas of brackish water. During the dry season the grass and black earth dry out. Then the fires come, turning a swamp into a huge plain of cracked black earth.

Freshwater springs dot this sun-baked plain forming small islands of vegetation and as Rarrandada (the hot time) builds the thirsty wayin (birds) come to these sacred springs in their thousands. The noise of the guḏurrku or dhaŋgultji (brolgas) and gurrumaṯji (magpie geese) are deafening, the mud scored with their tracks and the sky dark with the flocks of wheeling birds. In Ancestral times, activities of Mäna the shark and the Djaŋ’kawu took place here.

The Djaŋ’kawu - the Dhuwa moiety Creator Beings, in naming this country for the Dhudi Djapu, created these sacred freshwater spring-fed waterholes by plunging their sacred digging sticks in the ground. Freshwater sprung from these wells as did a sacred goanna, a manifestation in some circles of the Djaŋ’kawu themselves.

Story has it that on surfacing the goanna saw the first sunrise. Also on the wet clays around the wells the goanna observed the footprints of Daŋgultji the Brolga. The prints of the Brolga passing from spring to spring are an echo and a present-day manifestation of the Sisters who adopted the form of the brolga in their travels between springs as portrayed by the roundrel.

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.

Collecting Barks in Yirkala

Djawakan Marika, Yilpirr Wanambi, Wukun Wanambi and Nambatj Munu+ïgurr Harvesting stringybark for artists Photo credit: David Wickens

Harvesting barks for artists to paint in Yirkala

Wanapa Munu+ïgurr, Yilpirr Wanambi and Wukun Wanambi harvesting stringybark. Photo credit: David Wickens

Firing a bark ready for artists to paint in Yirkala

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.

Aboriginal Artists, Rerrkiwaŋa Munuŋgurr painting her husbands design Gumatj fire or Gurtha.

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.

Naminapu Maymuru White collecting gapan white clay used for painting. Photo credit: Edwina Circuitt


Galuma is the surviving daughter of the great Narritjin.

Galuma was one of the first Yol\u women to be instructed to paint (by her father) the sacred clan designs that were previously the domain of high ranking men. In preparation for her first solo exhibition of her art she rang through to Buku-Larr\gay the following statement:

This is what I really learnt from my father.

First when I was still in school at Yirrkala he used to let me sit next to him, me and my brothers and he used to show us all the paintings from Wayawu and Djarrakpi. And he'd say this is our paintings and I'm telling you this about the paintings for in the future when I'm passed away you can use them.

Then I forgot all this when I was in school - then I stopped but I was still thinking the way he was teaching us. Then one day I decided to start on a bark by helping him at Yirrkala. Every afternoon after work I used to sit with him and paint little barks - mostly from Djarrakpi but a little from the freshwater country at Wayawu but not Mil\aywuy.

Then I was keep on doing it over and over on cardboard until my hand it gets better and better and I put it in my mind, then it was working and I kept on doing it.

I went to Djarrakpi with my family to live with my father and my mother and brothers. My brothers passed away and we had to go back to Yirrkala. I left my father and mother there when I went to live at Båniyala. My husbands family were living there. I was teaching at the Båniyala school still doing a little bit of painting but mainly schooling. When my father and family died I stopped painting - just doing school work.

Once I moved to Dhuruputjpi in 1982/3 I started to paint again because no one else was doing it and I was thinking about the way my father was talking and how did he handle all this. How did my father do all this - travel and paint - how to handle this painting so I kept on thinking. I'm not really prouding myself but I want to do this painting as my father did it and to keep it in my mind. But I really want this painting to keep going. My gurru\ (Djambawa Marawili) he is looking after it as his Måri (mothers mothers side) and others are looking after it also. I have to teach my kids in case some one might steal the designs. So my kids can know what their mother's paintings is.

Collections include Sydney Opera House, Sydney, National Museum of Australia, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Harland Collection, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Berndt Museum of Anthropology - University of WA, The Kelton Foundation (USA), JW Klunge Collection.

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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