Organized by the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection

Djutjatjutja Munuŋgurr | Dhuruputjpi

Djutjatjutja Munuŋgurr

Dhuruputjpi, 1996





Mäṉa | The Shark

"This is our Law. Just as the Japanese have their law, the Chinese have their law and the English have their law. Our Law is this one. With this Law, Mäṉa—given by the Djambarrpuyŋu clan—came to Dhuruputjpi and established it as the wäŋa (homelands) for the Dhuḏi-Djapu’ clan. The patterns around Mäṉa’s body represent ḏarraŋgi, a palm that sits upon the top of the water. They grow tall on the river that this ancestral shark went through when he established Dhuruputjpi for the Dhuḏi-Djapu’ people. That’s our dhäwu (history), given to us from birrimbirr (our spirit’s conception). "


More Info

This painting represents the märi-gutharra (maternal grandmother-grandchild) relationship. Although the artist is from the Gupa-Djapu' clan, his märi wäŋa (grandmother's country) is Dhuruputjpi, the homeland of the Dhuḏi-Djapu' clan.

Wäṉḏawuy is represented by Mäna the ancestral shark. The bottom two panels represent the flood plains of Dhuruputjpi, the floodplain homeland of the Dhudi-Djapu. The märi-gutharra relationship is important, as it comes with obligations of custodial rites. The artist’s knowledge of these events is an assurance for the Dhudi-Djapu' that their culture is being safe-guarded by their gutharra.

The shark depicted here is not to be confused with the Djapu' shark at Wäṉḏawuy. This shark came to Garrinyirri from an area north when an ancestral hunter speared the shark. Through a network of underwater passages, this shark arrived at Garrinyirri, an area of open freshwater that can be contaminated with salt water from a tidal surge. This area is vegetated with a plant called ḏarraŋgi. The leaves of ḏarraŋgi., a form of wild banana, cover many of the permanent water sources near Dhuruputjpi, concealing the secret entrance to Mäṉa’s domain. Ḏarraŋgi is depicted as the sacred clan design for the Dhudi-Djapu' surrounding the shark. The crescent-shaped liver is symbolic of children born by wives of the Dhudi-Djapu, a relationship called yothu-yindi.

The Djan’kawu (Dhuwa creation beings) are represented in this work as two djanda (monitor lizards). The Djan'kawu wandered the Country, giving the Dhuwa clans Law and shaping the landscape. The top panel shows the sacred waterholes they created with their sacred digging sticks or wapitja.

The plains of Dhuruputjpi are covered with freshwater wells that are frequented by ḏaŋgultji or brolga (Australian crane, Antigone rubicunda). The black plain soil at Dhuruputjpi is dotted with freshwater wells and is populated by hundreds of brolga, who leave their tracks in the mud. The plain is tidal, and during the wet seasons, it is flooded by the rains and tidal surge, creating areas of brackish water.

– Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre

Additional Information




Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions (IN)

118 x 34

Dimensions (CM)

299 x 87


Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. 1996.0035.029



The Dhuḏi-Djapu’ clan belong to the Dhuwa moiety. Major spiritual themes include Mäṉa and the...

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Mäṉa | The Shark

Ancestral sharks, or mäṉa, play an important role in the songlines of several Dhuwa moiety...

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About The Artist(s)



Artist Dates


Alternative Names

Djudjadjudja, Djutadjuta, Jujajuja, Tjutjatjutja

Djutjatjutja Munuŋgurr

Djutjatjutja Munuŋgurr was a son of Woŋgu Munuŋgur. In 1994, with the assistance of his wife Noŋgirrŋa Marawili, he painted the first in a series of large bark paintings that would revitalize the practice of painting monumental bark paintings at Yirrkala. In 1997, he was awarded the bark painting prize at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.

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