"And just over there is the open ocean. Garrŋgirr, Manbuyŋa. There the water can strike you and shock you. And it is moving. Imitating the crocodile, holding onto the water with arms outstretched. Over there at the tongue of the knife, Yikiŋiuruya Yikimula Yarrwaŋa."
– ḎULA ŊURRUWUTTHUN
This painting is associated with ancestral events relating to the death of a Whale named Mirrinyuŋu, as well as the fertile floodplain at Maywundji.
The Munyuku clan have homelands at Rurraŋala (bush Country associated identified by a freshwater river) and Yarrinya (a beachside place identified by the saltwater ocean along the coast of Blue Mud Bay).
The waving ribbons of red, white and black miny'tji (designs) in this work extend upwards from the shoreline at Yarrinya, and out to sea, to the sacred rock named Garapana. It depicts the sea as rough, with an odor of death hanging upon it. The wind Dirimala or Bungan transports the smell Ganburrk over the beach and sand dunes at Yarrinya. These wind are depicted as red and black triangles in the lower section of the work, flanking the butchered tail of Mirrinyuŋu.'
During the Waŋarr (ancestral times), Mirrinyuŋu was slaughtered by two spirit men named Wurramala or Matjitji. The hunters belonged to the same clan as the Whale, making the whale their brother according to the Yolŋu system of gurruṯu, which extends kinship to all things in the natural world. When the whale washed up on the beach, the hunters used their stone knives to butcher it. The beach became putrid, contaminated with blood and fat. The men severed the tail of the Whale and cut its body into long strips, represented by the parallel bands of miny'tji in the bottom section of the painting.
After the Wurramala men had dissected the Whale, they thought of the stone knives as being contaminated. They threw their knives into the depths of the ocean. Horrified by their own actions, they left, driven away by flies and the rotting decay of the Whale's carcass. The knives turned into a rock, which shares the name Garapana, and can be seen in the central panel of Dula's other painting Raŋga At Yarrinya, (1995). The rock is said to be as sharp as a stone knife. This rock is completely submerged and surrounded by smaller rocks beneath the ocean. The only evidence of the rock is the swirling waters, called Garrŋgirr or Manbunyŋa, which crash around it, and break in white foam at the waters' surface.
This painting was commissioned by John W. Kluge and is the largest bark painting in the Kluge-Ruhe collection. Because of Ḏula's important ceremonial status, it took several months to complete the painting, as the artist worked on it sporadically between ceremonial obligations.
– Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
152 1/2 x 53 3/4
387 x 136
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.
Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997, 1996.0035.028
About The Artist(s)
The son of Djimbaryun Ŋurruwutthun, Ḏula Ŋurruwutthun began painting in the 1960s and continued until his death in 2001. A revered ceremonial leader, he played an important role as an educator and mentor for younger artists while ensuring cultural protocols were maintained at Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka.