Dhuwarrwarr Marika | Yalaŋbara
"Before my brother [Wandjuk Djuwakan Marika] got sick, he showed me all the paintings that he did. But he always told me, “Don’t copy other people’s artwork. Okay? What I am doing is for your future. You make these your own to pass on to our children’s children.” He taught me to understand what kind of pattern to use, because there are two patterns: one is Yalaŋbara, which has got four lines. On the other side of Yalaŋbara is the place called Guluruŋa; its pattern is only three lines. They are different from each other.
Yo, manymak (good). I’ve got only the four-line pattern design, from Yalaŋbara. Just the pattern where the rock is at Yalaŋbara, and the sand that runs out on top of it. At the top (inland) is the forest, and along the edge there is a beach, and you come down to the beach, and there’s a rock. It’s all the land down here, and all the land here. It matches with Yalaŋbara story, with the rock.
Then the shore where the Djan’kawu Sisters landed, and the sand dunes above. Yes. When the sun rose, these two ladies sat down, and they danced when the sun came up. Women’s work. And men’s work, song work. The sun rose there and the women danced, yes. And bush turkey and the sand goanna were there. Two walking sticks. Nowadays, I have one walking stick, but one day I’ll do it—before I really get old—get two walking sticks. It’s to leave a memory here, for my grandchildren. "
– Dhuwarrwarr Marika
Dhuwarrwarr’s design is closely related to the place of Yalaŋbara. This is the location of the landing of the Djaŋ’kawu (Dhuwa creator beings). According to the artist, the Djaŋ’kawu sisters arrived at Miwatj (Morning Side, the name for northeast Arnhem Land). The older Matalatj and the younger Bitjiwurrurru paddled through the water and climbed up the sand dunes to rest. There, they sang the songs of important Dhuwa birds related to the Rirratjiŋu clan. The Sisters hung their ceremonial bathi (dilly bags) on the sacred djuta tree. Then, they placed their Mawalan (digging sticks) into the sand to create the first Milŋurr (fresh waterhole). Surrounded by birds, goannas, and fruit bats, they witness the meeting of fresh and salt water as the sun rises. Matalatj gives birth and Bitjiwurrurru serves as her midwife. Dhuwarrwarr incorporates the white of Djawulu (the sisters’ white hair), evoking sacred wisdom. The place and ancestral events linked to Yalaŋbara represents the birth of the Rirratjiŋu clan.
– Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
83 15/32 x 35 7/16
212.0 x 90.0
Forthcoming acquisition. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. The 2017-19 Kluge-Ruhe Maḏayin Commission.
About The Artist
Dhuwarrwarr Marika was the first woman authorized to paint maḏayin miny’tji (sacred clan designs). The daughter of Mawalan Marika, she received permission to paint the sacred designs associated with the Djan’kawu Sisters while working as a nurse at the Yirrkala mission hospital in the late 1960s. Her example would open the door for future generations of women artists who continue the practice at Yirrkala.
Art Gallery of South Australia
Berndt Museum of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia
National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery of Australia
Seattle Art Museum
South Australian Museum