"When the wet season comes, the water rises and goes rushing back to the sea. The Dugong was hanging around in the shallows, and it was he who changed into the moon. Yes, the Dugong became the moon and the water chestnuts became the evening star. And it went as far as Gaḻarra, carrying its message. And I will paint that message, the footprints of the juvenile cockatoos and the mice and the dog, as they make their pathways. "
– BUTHAWAY MUNYARRYUN
In this work, Buwathay has painted the creation narrative of the moon and evening star. This takes place on the floodplain of Gayŋgarrŋa near Dhäliny, which is the source of Wangurri freshwater. This narrative is sung in an epic song cycle of the Wangurri clan, famously recorded by anthropologist Ronald Berndt in 1952. This is the first time it has been painted for non-Yolŋu audiences.
The design on the work relates to the journey of a sacred pole named Wärrawurr that floated through Wangurri clan waters, carrying sacred objects and message sticks. It is surrounded by totems of the Wangurri clan, including gaykarri (white cockatoos), nyiknyik (marsupial mice) and the dog Gulutharra. Also included are sacred dillybags, called ganiŋgirr or djurrpuḏuṯu used to collect water chestnuts. From these, Djurrpuṉ the evening star rose.
Listen to Buwathay Munyarryun discuss the story of Wirrmu and Djurrpan with Alexis Wright and Nicolas Jose:
– Buwathay Munyarryun and Wukuṉ Waṉambi
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
89 3/8 x 25 6/32
227.0 x 64.0
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.
The 2017-19 Kluge-Ruhe Maḏayin Commission.
Purchased with funds provided by William Alexander and Terrence Sykes, 2022.
About The Artist(s)