Organized by the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection

Yäma Munuŋgirritj | Gurruŋawuy

Yäma Munuŋgirritj

Gurruŋawuy, 1961





Wirrili | The Yellow Ochre Ancestor

"Gaḻaŋarr is the rock itself: Gaḻaŋarr, the yellow ochre. The place where we get the Gaḻaŋarr is called Gurruŋa or Gurruŋawuy. That is where we still go to get yellow ochre. And I call these digging sticks gaṉiny. And when Baḻaŋarrtji [another name for Wirrili] stuck his digging stick in the ground, it made a hole. And a goanna named Djarrawuywuy or Gamunuŋbi slipped over and went inside. He went inside black and came out yellow from the Gaḻaŋarr. And the hawk, Gurrututu, was flying around and saw the pieces of yellow ochre on the ground. He picked one up and flew away with that yellow ochre to the lands of the Gupapuyŋu clan. We sing Gaḻaŋarr together, Gupapuyŋu and Gumatj clans."


More Info

Near Gurka'wuy there is a famous yellow ochre quarry. Yäma's painting shows the place, which is on Caledon Bay. The human figures represent ancestral beings who were searching the beach below the cliff, leaving their footprints in the sand. They carried digging sticks for prising up lumps ochre. Eventually they found the deposits in the cliffs and gouged out the surface as they removed lumps of the ochre. In the ceremony dancers act out the ancestral beings walking along the beach dragging their digging sticks behind them. They then pause and drive their sticks into the ground, moving them from side to side as if prising up the ochre.

– Howard Morphy

Yäma Munuŋgirritj Yäma Munuŋgirritj Yäma Munuŋgirritj Yäma Munuŋgirritj Yäma Munuŋgirritj Yäma Munuŋgirritj Yäma Munuŋgirritj Yäma Munuŋgirritj Yäma Munuŋgirritj

Additional Information




Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions (IN)

27 1/2 x 14 3/4

Dimensions (CM)

69.8 x 37.5


Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.
Edward L. Ruhe Collection. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. 1993.0004.041



The Gumatj are a large clan, with homeland communities at Gunyuŋarra, Birany’birany, Dhanaya, Bawaka, Maṯamaṯa...

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Wirrili | The Yellow Ochre Ancestor

The saltwater painting starts on the horizon and goes toward Gurruŋawuy, where we get yellow...

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

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About The Artist(s)



Artist Dates


Alternative Names

Yama, Jama, Yarma

Yäma Munuŋgirritj

Yäma Munuŋgirritj created crayon drawings for the anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt in 1946–47. Along with his brother Waitjuŋ, he was the leader of the Yarrwidi Gumatj clan. In the 1970s, he appeared in several films made by Ian Dunlop, including Maḏarrpa Funeral at Gurka’wuy (1979), in which he plays a major role in leading the ceremony.

Collections Represented

Art Gallery of South Australia

Art Gallery of Western Australia

Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of Western Australia

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia