The Djulpan story is about seven sisters who went out in their canoe called Djulpan. During September onwards, they go hunting and always come back with different types of food; turtles, fish, freshwater snakes, yams and berries. They can be seen in the sky of a night, seven stars that come out together. Known in English as the Plaiedes.
The stars come in season when the food and berries come out, the stars will travel through the sky during that month until the season is over and they don’t come out until the next season. Yunupingu’s father told her about these seven sisters in a canoe, and the three brothers who came behind them, following them (Orion’s belt).
They travel west. There are special stars in the sky which Yolngu call wishing stars. They give Yolngu bush tucker; they multiply the foods in the sea – that’s why Yolngu are happy to see them. That’s what Yunupingu’s father told her.
The Djulpan make it to their home over the northern horizon and then cook their food. The smoke from their fires is sometimes visible. This appears to be a reference to actual visibility of such extreme events in Irian Jaya as volcanoes, dust storms and severe bushfires. Smoke or dust from such rare events is also mirrored in certain cloud formations that appear after the Sisters have left the sky. It is only then that the Yolngu of this dimension can set their customary annual fires. If fires are lit before this the Djulpan will become sad and jealous and cry. Their tears in the form of un-seasonal rain will extinguish the presumptuous fires.
When she looks at the stars, Yunupingu thinks about the universe, all around, and about every tribe, every colour. In every corner of the world people can look up and see the stars. This is Yunupingu’s vision – in her art, she focuses on the link between all people everywhere. The link between people on earth and stars in the sky – it’s real. Yunupingu links this to the idea of Garma, where people from everywhere and of all different groups come and relax, look up and see the stars. The major proponent of this story in art history is Munggurrawuy Yunupingu who painted it on bark. He was a legendary artist and political leader and father to these seven sisters as well as two Australians of the Year – Galarrwuy and Mandawuy Yunupingu.
Djerrkngu produced her print entirely with bitumen paint and spray paint. Painting directly onto the plate she tells the story of the seven stars in the sky and her seven sisters beneath them. The harvest behind depicts the bush yams that grow at this time of year which are an important food source for the Yolngu.
© Buku Larrnggay Mulka