"The Gumatj clan's saltwater painting starts on the horizon and goes toward Gurruŋawuy, where we get yellow ochre or gaḻaŋarr. The songline starts with the ancestor Wirrili, whom you can see in this painting by Yäma Munuŋgirritj. Wirrili has a lot of names, but we use the names that the old people used: Wirrili or Baḻaŋarrtji. One person, but a lot of names.
Wirrili was in the water, and the tide was heading out, so Wirrili jumped onto the sand, leaving his footprints. The footprints showed where he had been on the sand. He carried two digging sticks to dig into the ground looking for yellow ochre to put in his dillybag. He took his white digging stick and started digging the yellow ochre.
When you are at Birany’birany, you will hear the men sing that name— Baḻaŋarrtji. There will be a dancer standing, waiting. This is what we are singing, Baḻaŋarrtji, at the yellow ochre site. The dancer is painted up and holds the digging stick. And he will tell you that he is Baḻaŋarrtji getting ready to go into Gurruŋawuy to get some Gaḻaŋarr with his digging sticks. "
– YÄLPI YUNUPIŊU
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
19 7/8 x 8 1/8
50.5 x 20.6
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. 1993.0004.073
The Gumatj are a large clan, with homeland communities at Gunyuŋarra, Birany’birany, Dhanaya, Bawaka, Maṯamaṯa...
Wirrili | The Yellow Ochre Ancestor
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About The Artist(s)
Yama, Jama, Yarma
Yäma Munuŋgirritj created crayon drawings for the anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt in 1946–47. Along with his brother Waitjuŋ, he was the leader of the Yarrwidi Gumatj clan. In the 1970s, he appeared in several films made by Ian Dunlop, including Maḏarrpa Funeral at Gurka’wuy (1979), in which he plays a major role in leading the ceremony.
Art Gallery of South Australia
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of Western Australia
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia
Pieces By Decade