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This work depicts early events during Ancestral (and present) times at Yalata close to the Dhudi-Djapu clan homeland of Dhuruputjpi (about three hours drive southwest from Yirrkala). The Dhudi-Djapu homeland is a coastal fringe area that has territory leading up a river through plains country behind an area of coast on Blue Mud Bay. The plain is tidal and during the Wet season it is flooded by the rains and tidal surge creating areas of brackish water.
During the Dry season the grass and black earth dry out. Then the fires come, turning a swamp into a huge plain of cracked black earth. Fresh water springs dot this sun baked plain forming small islands of vegetation and as Rarrandada (the hot time) builds the thirsty birds come to these sacred springs in their thousands. The noise of the guturrku or dhaŋgultji (brolgas) and gurrumatji (magpie geese) are deafening, the mud is scored with their tracks and the sky dark with the flocks of wheeling birds.
In Ancestral times, activities of Måna the shark and the Djaŋ’kawu took place here. The Djaŋ’kawu (the Dhuwa moiety Creator Beings), in naming this country for the Dhudi Djapu, created these sacred fresh water, spring fed waterholes by plunging their sacred digging sticks in the ground.
Freshwater sprang from these wells as did a sacred goanna, a manifestation in some circles of the Djaŋ’kawu themselves. Story has it that on surfacing, the goanna saw the first sun rise. Also on the wet clays around the wells the goanna observed the footprints of Daŋgultji the brolga. The prints of the Daŋgultji passing from spring to spring are an echo and a present day manifestation of the Sisters who adopted the form of the brolga in their travels between springs as portrayed by the roundels.
The design repeated throughout represents Dharraŋgi – a freshwater plant associated with this homeland for the Dhudi Djapu and the Ancestral Shark. This painting by a senior Dhudi-Djapu elder is a close comparison to the designs used in ceremony. It is a classic representation of the sacred miny’tji of the Dhudi-Djapu clan.
Copyright Buku Larrnggay Mulka