Minyiyawany Dhäkuwal Yunupiŋu | Ancestral Crocodile at Birany’birany
The sacred paperbark swamp behind the beaches at Birany’birany is named Ŋalarrwuy. This area is represented by the central bulge occupied by Bäru. Bäru is the ancestral fire-bringing crocodile and is painted on its nest of fire with a cow between its jaws. Ŋalarrwuy is signified here as a place of fertility because Bäru goes from the sea to this area to breed and lay eggs. Nyuŋala, the totemic ox-eye herring, is seen throughout the painting as a companion to Bäru. In the Ŋalarrwuy swamp, the waters of the river mix with the sea. Another mixing of the water occurs outside of the river mouth. Once off shore, the river waters mix with Maḏarrpa clan waters signifying the kinship relation of Märi Gutharra (the relationships and obligations of one’s mother’s mother’s people, land, and law). The diamond design of the Gumatj clan fills the bottom two thirds of the work. This design represents the elements of ancestral fire and Yolŋu (people) for this clan. A line using two Bäru demarcates the clan territory. This denotes sea rites, because the design belongs to the Maḏarrpa clan. Here, the open ended ribbons of diamond that belong to the Gumatj clan’s märi indicate the fire and saltwater that came from Yathikpa.
– Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
118 x 41 1/2
299.7 x 105.4
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. 1996.0035.020.
About The Artist
The son of Bunuŋgu Yunupiŋu, Miṉyiyawany Dhäkuwal Yunupiŋu was a respected elder and artist. In the late 1990s, with assistance from his wife Banbiyak #2 Munuŋgurr, he produced a series of very precise, monumental works on bark and ḻarrakitj for projects including the John W. Kluge Commission and the Native Title and Saltwater exhibitions.