Organized by the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection

Galuma Maymuru | Sand Crabs

Galuma Maymuru

Sand Crabs, 2014






"Muṯimuṯi (2014), is breathtaking in its impact–an extraordinary composition in which the skeleton of the parrot fish takes on almost universal elements of religious iconography. Design, structure and aesthetics combine to give a glimpse of the infinite through the window of mortality. Light seems to emanate from the surface of the painting. To me it is a deeply metaphysical image. As with all great artists Galuma’s paintings stretch the imagination through their creativity and add new dimensions to the viewer’s experience of the world. "


More Info

Maŋgalili country is the site of one of the ceremonial burial ground called the Yiŋapuŋapu. The Yiŋapuŋapu is a low relief sand sculpture designed to keep any contamination of death at bay as traditionally the body of the deceased was placed within it for initial mortuary rites, to cleanse the bones of dangerous spirits held within the body tissue. A metaphor for this action of cleansing is utilized by the Maŋgalili in their sacred paintings by way of depicting sand or ghost crabs picking the bones of a fish carcass on the beach. Contemporary Maŋgalili on the beaches of Djarrakpi put their food scraps in one place when at camp–the secular yiŋupuŋapu. This painting shows the totemic mirriya (crabs) which feeds on the ancestral remains of the parrot fish Yambirrku. The miny’tji or sacred clan design for the sand-scapes of Djarrakpi both adorn and surround the crabs. The smaller crabs are soldier crabs or muṯimuṯi. In traditional mortuary ceremony for this clan the last act is to catch and eat Yambirrku and dispose of the bones in the ceremonial sand sculpture for the crabs to pick clean overnight.

– Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre

Additional Information




Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions (IN)

51 31/32 x 41 23/32 x 5 1/8

Dimensions (CM)

132 x 106 x 13


Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Purchased with funds provided by Vivien Anderson Gallery, 2021.



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About The Artist(s)



Artist Dates


Galuma Maymuru

Galuma Maymuru was one of the first women to paint the maḏayin miny’tji (sacred clan designs). She was taught by her father Narritjin Maymuru. Galuma worked as a teacher at Bäniyala School and was influential in the Buwayak movement, in which the figurative elements of paintings were buried beneath more abstract designs. In 2003, she received the bark painting prize at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.

Collections Represented

Art Gallery of New South Wales

Ballarat Fine Art Gallery

Berndt Museum of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia

British Museum

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

National Museum of Australia

The Phillips Collection

Seattle Art Museum

Sydney Opera House