Yinimala Gumana, Baraltja ga Garrapara, 152x54cm Bark
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- Aboriginal Artist - Yinimala Gumana
- Community - Yirkala
- Homeland - Gangan
- Aboriginal Art Centre - Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
- Catalogue number - 6265-18
- Materials - Earth pigments on Stringybark
- Size(cm) - H152 W54 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
Every season, the systems that feed the mangrove creek of Baraltja (home of Burrut’tji, the Lightning Snake) bring in the new season freshwaters. One source is from the Dhalwaŋu clan estates of Gäṉgaṉ depicted by this diamond design. As it does Burrut’tji ‘tastes” the first freshwater coming down. At this, the Lightning Snake at its residence stands on its tail and spits lightning into the storm. Incoming waters flood first the plains then the mangrove-lined creeks that finally empty into the sea. Leaves of the mangroves fallen into the water bank up on the surface in fields of red, yellow and black known as Motu. The serpent has been depicted spitting lightning. This action shows communication between the different lightning snakes of different Yirritja clans located hundreds of miles away which is seen in the lightning. They are located to the East and South West and this is why the snakes indicate direction in a mirrored way. In ancestral times, Burrut’tji travelled underground to Gäṉgaṉ (homeland of the Dha`waŋu people) and other places far away from his home and into country belonging to other clans including the Maŋgalili. The spine of the snake is important as it was laid underwater as part of a fish trap made by ancestral Yirritja. It is the ancestral remains of this trap that cause a natural barrage across the tidal creek leading out of Baraltja that concentrates the flow from the plain banking up the motu (fallen mangrove leaves) at this site. The water rat is a colleague and food source of Mundukul. In mortuary ceremonies held for Yolŋu in the past, a hollow log was used to contain the bones of the deceased. Burrut’tji is closely associated with the hollow log in mortuary ceremonies. Burrut’tji and his home are most sacred aspects of the ceremony which would be conducted only by elder men. Women would not be able to enter the area of the ceremonial ground used to represent Burrut’tji’s home - the journey of the spirit of the deceased Maḏarrpa person begins from this site. In the less restricted sections of this story, both men and women dance the fish, birds, mangrove leaves, fish trap, dogs, tide lines and other elements and tell the same story through song and dance. In summary, the diamond-based field which includes an elliptical shape is the muddied freshwater of the bottom Dhalwaŋu clan downstream from Gangan. The conception that this flows out through Baraltja (a small mangrove creek in a different watercouse) is actually technically possible at the time of Wet Season inundation of the floodplains behind the mangroves where an expanse of water up to 50km long can exist connecting the two. But the real connection being mapped is that between the Dhalwangu and their mother’s mothers- the Madarrpa. The artist said that Burrut’tji has a place at Gangan and this site mirrors the one at Baraltja, side by side.
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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