Nänyin’s painting Guwak ga Marrŋu | Night Bird and Possum (1964) can be read from different perspectives. The image shows the journey of the ancestors from place to place, with each intersection depicting a location where they stopped. Guwak, at the top of the painting, is leading the way, and the possum-fur string trails behind him. The central column can also be interpreted as the ganyawu (Semecarpus australiensis, native cashew tree) at journey’s end, which has the sacred name Marawili. From this perspective, it is also the “playground” for the possums, who run up and down the tree and in and out of the hollowed trunk. The background miny’tji (pattern) inside the trunk shows the marks made by the possums, and outside the miny’tji shows patterns in the sand. At the very top of the trunk are three garanyirrnyirr (cicadas).
– Howard Morphy
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
62 x 20 15/16
157.5 x 53.2
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.
Edward L. Ruhe Collection. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. 1993.0004.624
About The Artist(s)
Nanjin, Nanung, Nanyan
Nänyin Maymuru was the elder brother of Narritjin Maymuru. Along with his brother, he painted the Maŋgalili section of the Yirrkala Church Panels and developed the distinctive Maŋgalili school of painting continued by their children Baluka Maymuru, Galuma Maymuru and Naminapu Maymuru-White.