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Noŋgirrŋa Marawili: Gurtha (Fire diamonds)


  • No.:RKP0024
  • Medium:Natural Ochres on Paper
  • Size:48 × 50 cm
  • Year:2017
  • Region:Arnhem Land (East)
  • Art Centre:Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka

The strings of diamonds marks the classic miny’tji of the saltwater estate of Yathikpa. Here Bäru the ancestral crocodile, carrying and being burnt by the Ancestral fire crossed the beach from Garraŋali (crocodile’s nest) and entered the saltwater. Bäru decided after being soothed of his burns that he would stay in these waters. His sacred powers in line with that of the fire imbues the water there today.

Later from the same beach Ancestral Hunters on seeing Dugong took their hunting harpoon and canoe out to the sea of Yathikpa in pursuit. The hunters were lured too close to a dangerous rock by the dugong seeking shelter. The dugong here feed on the Gamata, a sea grass that is a manifestation of flames on the sea bed. Wavy ribbons of seagrass sway in the sunlit water. Fire at this sacred site boiled the water capsizing the canoe. This is sometimes called an ancestral tide and it is speculated that this is the oral tradition of an ancient tsunami.

The parallel wavy lines take the flow of water to the open ocean, Muŋurru. It is here on the horizon that the waters from other Yirritja clans, the Dhalwaŋu, Manggalili and Munyuku merge and mingle. The hunter’s harpoon floats incessantly between the various coastal saltwater estates of these clans. It is also here that the feminine thunderclouds take up life-giving water to rain back over the hinterlands, thence to flow through the river systems and meet the saltwater tidal surge. The transformation of saltwater into fresh and back into salt mirrors the soul as it changes its outward form from corporeal to ethereal and so on.

This is a painting of fire but also simultaneously of water. It is a raw rendition of Madarrpa clan sacred design for the ocean at Yathikpa which is melting and crashing to the horizon. Noŋgirrŋa mentioned that this work includes reference to the dark leaf stained mangrove water that is pushed out into the ocean in the first floods.

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