Yäma Munuŋgirritj | Wirrili (Gumatj Ancestral Being)

Yäma Munuŋgirritj

Wirrili (Gumatj Ancestral Being) , Before 1966

Wirrili

Clan

Gumatj

Songline

Wirrili | The Yellow Ochre Ancestor

"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

Additional Information

Decade

Before 1966

Medium

Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions (IN)

19 7/8 x 8 1/8

Dimensions (CM)

50.5 x 20.6

Credit

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. 1993.0004.073

Narrative

Gumatj

The Gumatj clan belongs to the Yirritja moiety. Spiritual themes include Gurtha, the ancestral bushfire...

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Songline

Wirrili | The Yellow Ochre Ancestor

The saltwater painting starts on the horizon and goes toward Gurruŋawuy, where we get yellow...

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Location

Birany’birany

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Location

1960s

The 1960s were a decade of tumult and triumph for Yolŋu art and artists. In...

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About The Artist(s)

Clan

Gumatj

Artist Dates

c.1920-1987

Alternative Names

Yama, Jama, Yarma

Yäma Munuŋgirritj

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.

Collections Represented

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