Your artworks
Ŋoŋu Ganambarr, Mädi, 84x33cm Bark
  • Aboriginal Art - Ŋoŋu Ganambarr, Mädi, 84x33cm Bark
  • Aboriginal Art - Ŋoŋu Ganambarr, Mädi, 84x33cm Bark
  • Aboriginal Art - Ŋoŋu Ganambarr, Mädi, 84x33cm Bark
  • Aboriginal Art - Ŋoŋu Ganambarr, Mädi, 84x33cm Bark
Aboriginal Art - Ŋoŋu Ganambarr, Mädi, 84x33cm Bark
Aboriginal Art - Ŋoŋu Ganambarr, Mädi, 84x33cm Bark
Aboriginal Art - Ŋoŋu Ganambarr, Mädi, 84x33cm Bark
Aboriginal Art - Ŋoŋu Ganambarr, Mädi, 84x33cm Bark

Ŋoŋu Ganambarr, Mädi, 84x33cm Bark

  • Aboriginal Artist - Ŋoŋu Ganambarr
  • Community - Yirkala
  • Homeland - Rorruwuy
  • Aboriginal Art Centre - Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
  • Catalogue number - 2712-19
  • Materials - Earth pigments on Stringybark
  • Size(cm) - H84 W33 D0.6  (irregular shape)
  • Postage variants - Artwork posted flat and ready to hang with a metal mount for stability
  • Orientation - Ready to hang as displayed though OK to hang horizontally

The clan groups of the northeast Arnhem Land region are structured around a complex system of kinship law. As with Yolŋu personal relationships, ie with mother, with father, uncle, grandfather or wife or child, a particular Yolŋu clan will have these same relationships with other clans. This creates a network that links the ancestral events of creation which is said to have its foundations laid down by the Waŋarr (creator beings) of this time. These Ancestral creators, manifest in the ability to change form and travel vast distances, shaped the landscape, populated the land and gave the people Yolŋu Rom - lore that encompasses languages, law, and title to land, song dance, and ceremony - all factors that build the sophisticated complexities of kinship structure.

This, as with many works produced from this area explains a basic foundation to a particular event(s) associated with the artist's clan, and by following networks established within Yolŋu culture, associations with other clans, lands, and events are revealed. This information is divulged to outsiders at different levels according to the confidence that the narrator has in his listener's ability to comprehend. The ‘bottom line’ of the meaning of Yolŋu images of miny’tji (sacred design) remains secret with the fully initiated male.

This work belongs to the Wangurri clan. This is recognised by the fact that miny’tji (sacred clan design- the detailed cross-hatching ‘behind’ the figurative imagery) belonging to the Wangurri covers the piece. This piece shows disguised representations of a mangrove log washed in from saltwater Maŋgalili country into the Wangurri clan freshwater area of Gularri, the Cato River. Mädi is the female Rock Lobster. It contained Milka or mangrove worms which died once it washed into the freshwater. This pattern was etched in the log and is here repeated as the Wangurri sacred clan design which appears throughout.

The songs of the Wangurri invest this log with sacred power allowing it to make paths that other beings and landscape features could follow. It is also a representation of the ‘mangrove worm’ with its wood-eating jaws shut. Here the log has completed a journey through the tidal interplay of fresh, salt, and brackish to the fresh waters of Gularri near Dhalinybuy - the actual residence of the artist and homeland for the Waŋgurri. The log also has reference to the canoe used by the ancestral hunters who were the first Maŋgalili people to die, having drowned at sea, and the hollow log used for final mortuary rites.

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

Details currently unavailable

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

Life is better with art