Waitjuŋ Munuŋgirritj | Birany’birany

Waitjuŋ Munuŋgirritj

Birany’birany, 1965

Birany’birany

Clan

Gumatj

Songline

Bäru | The Saltwater Crocodile

"This painting is by Waitjuŋ Munuŋgirritj. It shows the creek at Birany’birany. Munuŋgirritj is bottom Gumatj (Yarrwiḏi-Gumatj). But bottom and top Gumatj (Rrakpaḻa-Gumatj) can ask each other for permission to paint each other’s designs. We ask each other, “Do you want me to paint Yarrwiḏi-Gumatj?” or “Do you want me to paint Rrakpaḻa-Gumatj?” And we can make an agreement, but the songlines are the same. Yolŋu are not like ŋäpaki (non-Yolŋu); our relationships are complicated. But if you trespass this area, the river goes into Maḏarrpa Country—Djambawa’s area. Yes, Maḏarrpa: that is what it is like: märi and gutharra, grandmother and grandchild. But Waitjuŋ has painted the Gumatj River. Otherwise, he would have painted two creeks: two creeks that join into one like in the painting by my wäwa (brother) Miṉyiyawany Dhäkuwal Yunupiŋu: that is top Gumatj and Maḏarrpa, joining into one and going out to the ocean.

But, in this work, Waitjuŋ Munuŋgirritj has painted the Gumatj River and Bäru, the Saltwater Crocodile, heading toward Birany’birany. Bäru traveled from Maḏarrpa Country to Gumatj Country bringing the fire with him all the way to a place called Yolŋu-Munygunhamirri. The fire followed behind on the back of Bäru, burning the place called Binmil, and then spread all over. Yes, the fire connects all these places."

– YÄLPI YUNUPIŊU

Additional Information

Decade

1965

Medium

Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions (IN)

60 1/4 x 24 1/4

Dimensions (CM)

153.0 x 61.6

Credit

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. 1993.0004.855

Narrative

Gumatj

The Gumatj clan belongs to the Yirritja moiety. Spiritual themes include Gurtha, the ancestral bushfire...

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Songline

Bäru | The Saltwater Crocodile

During the Waŋgarr (ancestral times), there was a woman named Dhamiḻiŋu. She lived with her...

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Location

Birany’birany

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Location

1960s

The 1960s were a decade of tumult and triumph for Yolŋu art and artists. In...

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About The Artist(s)

Clan

Gumatj

Artist Dates

c.1916-1977

Alternative Names

Waidjung, Waijung, Waitjug, Wychung

Waitjuŋ Munuŋgirritj

Waitjuŋ Munuŋgirritj was the leader of the Yarrwiḏi-Gumatj clan. In 1948, he painted for Charles Mountford’s American-Australian Scientific Expedition of Arnhem Land, and in 1960, he contributed to the Yirrkala Church Panels.

Collections Represented

Art Gallery of Western Australia

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia

National Gallery of Victoria

National Museum of Australia