"All our song cycles start from the horizon, in the deep sea. The song cycles for the Djapu’ and Marrakulu clans, who are related to each other as märi (grandmother) and gutharra (grandchild), follow the current that comes from Burralku, out in the deep sea. The names of the waters are Wuḻamba, Wuywu, and Barrkanytji, breaking on the shore, roaring together. The currents bring the water, märi and gutharra, and the waters hit that rock named Bamurruŋu, then clash, roaring into the land. We sing of this in the song cycle. Our power comes from the deep ocean waters, which crash upon the rocks at Gurka’wuy."
– Wukuṉ Waṉambi
Yalanba Waṉambi is the younger brother of Wukuṉ Waṉambi. Like his brother, his works center on the Marrakulu waters of Gurka’wuy, as they flow in from the deep ocean, mixing with the waters of the Djapu' and Dhapuyngu clans crashing upon the sacred rock Bamurruŋu. Yalanaba encrusts his bark with the black sand found only at the beach Yalanba, after which he is named.
A set of three rocks stand in the mouth of Trial Bay submerged either completely or partially within its waters. The waters of Gurka’wuy River flow out through Trial Bay past these rocks conflicting and clashing in a turbulent unity with the incoming tidal waters from the deep ocean. Their names rarely spoken are Duṉḏiwuy, Bamurruŋu and Yilpirr.
Yolŋu of this area speak of a hole submerged under the rocks, from where bubbles are seen rising to the surface, sometimes bursting forth with a rush. The bubbles are seen as a life force and a direct Ancestral connection for the Marrakulu. In sacred song, Bamurruŋu, a sacred and monolithic rock in the mouth of Trial Bay lies submerged within its waters surrounded by these fish; Buku-Duŋgulmirri or Wawurritjpal (sea mullet).
When the Marrakulu perform ritual dance for the events depicted in this painting participants move towards a held spear representing the steadfastness of the rock, spliting the dancers who then surround the rock known as Bamurruŋu moving as does the sea to song and rhythm of yiḏaki (didjeridu) and bilma (clapsticks).
Bamurruŋu is a spiritual focus for an alliance of clans who share identity connected with the felling of the Waṉambi (stringybark) tree. Wuyal, the Ancestral Sugarbag Man, while in Marrakulu clan country cut the sacred tree while looking for native honey. Its falling path gouged the course for the Gurka’wuy River that has flowed ever since into Trial Bay. The hollow log’s movements in and out with the tides and currents completing the kinship connections of the various waters associated with the Wäwilak (Wägilak) narrative. In other clan’s lands these actions were repeated. These groups dance songs of honey flowing like rivers of freshwater from fonts deep in the saltwater under the rock. The rivers belonging to these clans; the Marrakulu, Golumala, Marraŋu and flow (spiritually) towards this rock.
This painting depicts the water clashing as it plays and mingles with that of the Djapu' and Dhapuyŋu clans. This Balamumu oceanic salt water rushing into the bay creates eddies, currents and patterns that delineate the relationship between the Djapu' and Marrakulu clans.
This painting was selected as a finalist in the Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2018.
– Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
77 9/16 x 26 49/64
197 x 68
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.
The 2017-19 Kluge-Ruhe Maḏayin Commission.
Purchased with funds provided by William Alexander and Terrence Sykes, 2023.
About The Artist(s)
The son of Mithili Waṉambi, Yalanba Waṉambi was included in the 2008 exhibition Young Guns II at the Annandale Galleries in Sydney, from which the National Gallery of Australia acquired the major bark painting Two Rocks in Trial Bay (2007). His works are distinguished by their use of black sand taken from the beach, Yalanba, for which the artist is named.