"This is not a sacred story. This is a story for everybody to see. It refers to Djurrpun, the Evening Star that my father [Mungurrawuy Yunupiŋu] used to sing as it rose just after dusk. And as a child I remember those stories of Djurrpun. But Djurrpun is a sacred story that belongs not just to the Gumatj, but to other clans. And so I have taken any miny'tji or sacred design out of this, and just left myself with the stars. And I am thinking that the people, the millions and billions of people in the world are, you know, just sitting there looking at the stars and think, 'Well how can we be separate if we're all under the same stars? We are like the stars, in that there are as many stars as there are people.'"
– GULUMBU YUNIPIŊU
The infinite reaches of space are a primary inspiration for Gulumbu Yunupiŋu, whose first depictions of stars date to 1999. Stars are frequently found in Yolngu ceremonial painting and relate to two significant ancestral narratives: the sisters Guthayguthay and Nhayay who became stars in the Milky Way and the seven sisters who traveled by a canoe, named Djulpan. Both stories were taught to Yunupingu by her father, Mungurruway Yunupiŋu. Rather than literally depict these narratives, the artist conceives the stars as a metaphor for the unity of humanity: “We are just like the stars. All gathered close together. We are really as one like the stars.”
This painting was selected as a finalist in the 2009 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.
– Henry Skerritt
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
63 3/8 x 27 5/8
161 x 70
Collection of Fondation Opale, Lens, Switzerland
About The Artist(s)
Renowned as a traditional healer, Gulumbu Yunupiŋu was one of the leaders in a movement of women artists at Yirrkala who moved away from painting sacred clan designs. In 2004, she was awarded first prize at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, and in 2006, she was one of eight artists whose work was incorporated into the design for the Musée du quai Branly in Paris.