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Wukun (Daymbalipu Gatanikpa) Wanambi: Trial Bay


  • No.:RKS1433
  • Medium:Natural Ochres on Larrakitj
  • Size:168 × 13 cm
  • Year:2014
  • Region:Arnhem Land (East)
  • Art Centre:Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka
  • Status:

Trial Bay is located between Caledon bay to the north and above the larger Blue Mud Bay on the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Deep inside Trial Bay the Marrakulu clan claim ownership to land and sea though the actions and events of Ancestor Beings as they travelled into this country imbuing both land and sea. The mark of ownership is sung, danced and painted in Marrakulu ritual through the stringybark woodlands and stony country, through the freshwaters running into the Gurka’wuy River into trial Bay. Mixing with the saltwaters through sacred mangroves and froth and bubble and out deeper into the Bay with the outgoing tide, past boulders and rocky islets the power and knowledge associated with Marrakulu Rom (law) washes back to shore. This country is associated with the Wawalak Sisters, sacred goannas, Wuyal the Sugerbag Man and the original inhabitants of Gurka’wuy since these times, the Djuwany people. The Djuwany were the first people of this country who practised the ritual according to the Creators on the beaches, who hunted the stony country and waters of both the River and Trial Bay.

This painting refers to Bamurruŋu, a sacred and solitary rock in Trial Bay. It is a white dome in the Bay - a round lump of granite its top coloured white by roosting birds, in the painting by the molmulpa or white sea foam associated with turbulent and agitating waters created by particular tide and wind. The fish swim up to Bamurruŋu and referred to as Marparrarr or milk fish, somewhat like a large mullet. According to the artist these were once people of the stone country behind where the Marrakulu have now settled close the mouth of the Gurka’wuy river. They turned to Marparrarr on reaching the shore and following the feathered string to Bamurruŋu. The Beings of Marparrarr were the ‘same’ as the original inhabitants of Gurka’wuy, in this manifestation, populating Marrakulu sea country as land totems do in this area. Yolŋu of this area speak of a hole submerged under the rock, from where bubbles are seen rising to the surface, sometimes bursting forth with a rush. The bubbles are seen as a life force and a direct Ancestral connection for the Marrakulu. The Marparrarr have knowledge of this special phenomenon as do the law men. The artist explained that here was a ‘statue’ for Mali Djuluwa Makaratjpi. When the Marrakulu perform ritual dance for the events depicted in this painting participants move towards a held spear representing the steadfastness of the rock, splittng the dancers who then surround Bamurruŋu moving as does the sea to song and rhythm of Yidaki and Bilma. Bamurrungu is seen as part of a set of three rocks which stand in the mouth of Trial Bay submerged either completely or partially within its waters. The waters of Gurka’wuy River flow out through Trial Bay past these rocks conflicting and clashing in a turbulent unity with the incoming tidal waters from the deep ocean. Their names rarely spoken are Dundiwuy, Bamurrungu and Yilpirr. In sacred song, Bamurruŋu, a sacred and monolithic rock in the mouth of Trial Bay lies submerged within its waters surrounded by these fish; Buku-Duŋgulmirri or Wawurritjpal, Sea Mullet. As the Marrakulu dance they are the schools of fish. When their soul’s progress is momentarily barred by the obstacle of the rock (mortality) they act as these fish do and leave the dimension they know and leap into the air before returning to the familiar dimension of water. This mirrors the cyclical nature of Yolŋu spiritual progress. Bamurruŋu is a spiritual focus for an alliance of clans who share identity connected with the felling of the Stringybark tree. Wuyal the Ancestral Sugarbag Man while in Marrakulu clan country cut the sacred Wanambi (hollowed Stringybark tree) looking for native honey. Its falling path gouged the course for the Gurka’wuy River that has flowed ever since into Trial Bay. The hollow log’s movements in and out with the tides and currents completing the kinship connections of the various waters are the subject of ritual song and dance of this country. The Marrakulu sing these events (with other clans) during ceremony associated with the Wawalak myth. In other clan’s lands these actions were repeated. These groups dance songs of honey flowing like rivers of freshwater from fonts deep in the saltwater under the rock. The rivers belonging to these clans; the Marrakulu, Golumala, Marraŋu and Wawilak flow (spiritually) towards this rock. This work depicts the water clashing as it plays and mingles with that of the Djapu and Dhapuyŋu clans. This Balamumu oceanic salt water rushing into the bay creates eddies, currents and patterns that delineate the relationship between the Djapu and Marrakulu clans. This relationship is referred to as Märi-Gutharra. The maternal grandmother clan and its granddaughter. These waters are in this relationship as well. This is known as the ‘backbone’. One of the key relationships in a complex kinship system whose reciprocal duties are most powerful. These clans are both Dhuwa and share responsibilities for circumcising and burying each others clan members. A matriarchal analysis of the world that governs the behaviour of both sexes equally.

Larrakitj | Lorrkon | Tutini are sculptures made from tree trunks which adapt to room temperature and humidity. Tiny hair cracks are inherent in the nature of the material.
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