Your artworks
Yinimala Gumana, Gupapuyŋu Ŋuykal, 162x57cm Bark
  • Yinimala Gumana, Gupapuyŋu Ŋuykal, 162x57cm Bark
  • Yinimala Gumana, Gupapuyŋu Ŋuykal, 162x57cm Bark
  • Yinimala Gumana, Gupapuyŋu Ŋuykal, 162x57cm Bark
  • Yinimala Gumana, Gupapuyŋu Ŋuykal, 162x57cm Bark
Yinimala Gumana, Gupapuyŋu Ŋuykal, 162x57cm Bark
Yinimala Gumana, Gupapuyŋu Ŋuykal, 162x57cm Bark
Yinimala Gumana, Gupapuyŋu Ŋuykal, 162x57cm Bark
Yinimala Gumana, Gupapuyŋu Ŋuykal, 162x57cm Bark

Yinimala Gumana, Gupapuyŋu Ŋuykal, 162x57cm Bark

  • Aboriginal Artist - Yinimala Gumana
  • Community - Yirkala
  • Homeland - Gangan
  • Aboriginal Art Centre - Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
  • Catalogue number - 1621/17
  • Materials - Earth pigments on Stringybark
  • Size(cm) - H162 W57 D0.6  
  • Postage variants - Artwork posted flat and ready to hang with a metal mount for stability
  • Orientation - As displayed

Yinimala is the son of Winimbu who was the brother of Dr. Gawirrin Gumana AO. Dr. Gumana grew Yinimala up after his brother died and gave him great authority and responsibility at an extremely young age. Gawirrin’s wife (the mother of his son’s Gutjapin and Waturr), a Djambarrpuyŋu woman was herself the daughter of a Gupapuyngu woman. In fact, the Guyamirrilil group of Gupapuyŋu who now take the surname in (English parlance) of Garmu. An inland group with close ties through the subject of this work to the Waŋgurri, Maŋgalili and Djapu clans but who are essentially on the very fringe if not beyond the Miwatj region or Sunrise section of North East Arnhem land. In the area of the Mitchell Ranges /Arafura Swamp. This imagerey was only painted a few times before. Certainly when questioned Gawirrin who had painted since the very early 1960’s at least revealed that he had never made such a work (publicly) but that his father the legendary Birr’kitji had made a small bark a long time ago. “I never painted it before but my sons Gutjapin and Waturr asked for their Märi”.

This artwork depicts elements associated with Ŋuykal the ancestral Kingfish (Turrum, Carangoides Emburyi -the artist gave his ‘big name’ as Gunumbal). It is the travelling of this fish (up freshwater rivers to breed) that created important ties with relative clans. Ŋuykal’s travelling included a path from Dhonydji to the Wayawu River which passes through Dhalingbuy a site where the Wangurri clanspeople have settled. This object renders the endpoint of that journey showing the being at Wayawu but still bedecked with the design from the Dhonydji leg. At Wayawuwuy Ŋuykal changed into the hollow log Milkamirri.

The Wayawu River was also created by this fish/log in its guise as a giant spirit boulder Dukurrurru as it gouged what was to be the bed of this river. It crashed down from the Gupapuyŋu country of Burrawanydji to the coast through Dhalwaŋu, Munyuku, Djapu clan country before meeting the sacred waters of the Dhudi-Djapu clan at Dhuruputjpi. Here this water coming from the rock slips under the waters of Dhuruputjpi to empty into Blue Mud Bay at what is marked on the map as Grindall Bay. This design shows the top side of the Wayawu River with the freshwater coming from the Guyamirrilil area of Burrawanydji where Maŋgalili, Ritharrŋu, and Gupapuyŋu meet.

This rock gunda is also the cloud Baltha which Ŋuykal follows out of the corner of his eye. This cloud has a feminine aspect as in its Saltwater guise as Waŋupini it drew up the waters at the edge of the horizon and now is pregnant with life-giving freshwater which rains at the top of the hinterland flowing through its different identities and states and languages to the horizon again to repeat the cycle as a metaphor for the transformations of the human spirit from corporeal to ethereal and so on. A rush growing by the banks of the Wayawu was made into a basket by the ancestral woman Nyapaliŋu who used them for collecting Yoku water lily bulbs (shown within Ŋuykal) which are washed down the river during flood along with lily leaves and plant. So, this log is the pole, is the fish, is the rock, is the cloud. These bulbs are likened to children. The other fish in the design are Baliny, whose sexual ambiguity (changing from salt to fresh) is well known to Yolŋu, Bilthu, the rifle fish (an exclusively freshwater fish of the crystal clear streams of the hinterland).

This log is known as Batjarriny in its freshwater existence. Ŋuykal people dance, with spear throwers the tail and sacred dilly bag in mouth, the journey towards a sacred sand sculpture to sanctify it. This represents the legal aspects of clan ownerships and responsibilities of rite.

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


Son of Dhakawal. Assisted Gawirriṉ Gumana AO on his NATSIAA First Prize pole. After his father’s death, he has been raised by the legendary elder and artist Gawirriṉ, his father’s brother. Yinimala has patiently assisted his uncle or classificatory father with the cross-hatching on many of his major works. He has also travelled to exhibitions with him and has been educated in the Yolŋu law in ceremony. Accordingly, the maturity of his artwork and manner is striking for one so young. He was one of the five artists chosen by elders and the Art Centre to represent their generation in the ‘Young Guns’ show at Annandale Galleries in June 2006. He has been anointed as a future Dalkarra/Djirrikay (leader of Dhuwa and Yirritja ceremonies). He is a member of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre’s managing Committee. In 2011 he was elected Chairperson of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre. In 2008 he was again selected to exhibit in Young Guns II. His first child was born around this time. In 2009 he was one of the ambassadors chosen to visit Canberra and argue the case for homelands with federal politicians.

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