"We still own our culture. We live it. It can be carried out to the world, to be recognized, through our art. And it can be passed onto our children, so we can leave a story about how we live today and our past. I love it how the art is carrying me out and how we can focus to carry out for our right to share to the world what the Yolŋu people are like, in the art, in the culture, how we are living now. Through the art. From the Yolŋu to the modern world."
– GARAWAN WAṈAMBI
This painting depicts the Marraŋu clan homeland of Raymaŋgirr, located approximately 155 miles west of Yirrkala. Garawan’s paintings reference a site near the mouth of the river where freshwater springs bubble beneath the saltwater. This site is associated with Mosquito ancestors, who represent both aggression and conflict resolution.
Curator and Marrakulu kinsman Wukuṉ Waṉambi explains:
"We do not borrow designs from other clans without permission. That would be like trespassing, crossing the border. This design belongs to the Marrŋu clan from around Gapuwiyak. But we are connected to this design through the songlines. So the design can be used by us, with their permission, even though it is not owned by Marrakulu."
Both the Marraŋu and Marrakulu clans sing of the felling of monumental trees by the honey ancestor Wuyal. A fallen log created the path of a river on the way to sea. The clans also speak of a deluge of honey, floods, and other ancestral events. The artist has said that the fallen trunk, a sacred ḻarrakitj, is central to the painting.
Raymangirr is near places of spiritual danger where freshwater springs up. If a person gets close to these places, they will become sick with mäpan (boils). Mosquito ancestors will also waya mari (fight with spears into) the boil, releasing bloody mud. Alongside the danger of these places, there is also peace and calm. Mosquitos represent aggression, but also the release of tension experienced with the burst of a boil. Likewise, Garawan’s designs show waters moving from anger to calm.
– Wukuṉ Waṉambi and Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
78 ¼ x 31 ¼
198.8 x 79.4
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.
The 2017-19 Kluge-Ruhe Maḏayin Commission.
Purchased with funds provided by Katherine Brooks and George Beller, and Marc Sobel and Lisa Sandy, 2017, 2017.0008.001
About The Artist(s)
Garawan Waṉambi is the son of Munuparriwuy Waṉambi and grandson of Garrarumbu Waṉambi. After his father’s death in 1973, Garawan was adopted by Wayuŋga Waṉambi of the Marraŋu clan. As a result, Garawan tends to paint the Marraŋu homeland of Raymaŋgirr. In 2014, he was awarded the bark painting prize at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. His wife, Manini Gumana, is also a respected artist.