Organized by the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection

Meŋa Munuŋgurr | Ancestral Shark in Fish Trap

Meŋa Munuŋgurr

Ancestral Shark in Fish Trap, 1996

Mäna Ganybuŋur




Mäṉa | The Shark

"The place called Wäṉḏawuy belongs only to the Djapu’ clan. The patterns in our paintings tell the story of Mäṉa, the ancestral shark that traveled inland from a place called Dharrwar Binyanpi in Djambarrpuyŋu Country. He traveled inland because he had been speared with a barbed spear by a spirit man named Ganbulapula. As Mäṉa went on his journey, traveling from place to place, he named all of the estates of the Dhuwa people. At Djätjiwuy he rested, because he was tired from the spear wound. This gave him the energy to keep going, but soon Mäṉa grew weak. Yet still he traveled, stopping at Dhikuwuy and then at Makarr Djambarrpuyŋu, until he reached Wäṉḏawuy."


More Info

Mäṉa (the ancestral shark) resides at the artist’s freshwater homeland at Wäṉḏawuy. This is represented by the sacred Djapu' clan design for freshwater, the squares of cross hatching. Mäṉa is facing the entrance to his underground system of waterways. Meŋa has shown the different “levels” of freshwater by the bands of alternating colors.

A similar design in the lower section of the painting represents the shades erected for fishing. In the river systems at Wäṉḏawuy, catfish are caught with scoop nets. This also represents part of a songline involving the unsuccessful netting of the ancestral shark during the Waŋarr (Ancestral Times). The shark’s thrashing in the net is a metaphor for the release of the Djapu' soul during mortuary rites.

– Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre

Additional Information




Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions (IN)

95 ¾ x 28

Dimensions (CM)

243 x 71


Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. 1996.0035.010.



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About The Artist(s)



Artist Dates

Born 1959

Meŋa Munuŋgurr

Meŋa Munuŋgurr is the son of Djutjatjutja Munuŋgurr. He is a renowned song man and ceremonial leader for the Djapu’ clan based at Wäṉḏawuy homeland. Although not a prolific artist, he participated in both the 1996 John W. Kluge Commission and the 2017–19 Kluge-Ruhe Maḏayin Commission.

Collections Represented

Australian National Maritime Museum

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia