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  • Title: Djirrikitj
  • Artist: Yalpi Yunupingu
  • Region: Arnhem Land
  • Art Centre: Buku Larrnggay Mulka
  • Medium: Etching
  • Collection:
  • Dimensions: 40 x 40 cm
  • Edition Size: 30
  • Price ($AUD): $ 330

Artwork Story

The Gumatj revere the Ancestral Crocodile Båru and its associations with the Ancestral Fire. This diamond design is that fire, and can only have reference to the Gumatj land around Biranybirany and Ancestral events that occurred there.

This Gumatj clan design is associated with ancestral events; the red flames, the white smoke and ash, the black charcoal and the yellow embers. Clans owning connected parts of this sequence of ancestral events share variations of this diamond design. Owners of country with rights to the knowledge of their land, the Gumatj are also evoked, the skin, the blood, bone and fat.

Fire is as basic as water and land to the Gumatj, one of the largest clans of the Miwatj area. Fire in Ancestral times scorched ground where creators had gathered to enact the lore that was the secret knowledge that held the power. This was spread to other Gumatj lands carried by various means across the country imbued by the fire.

In ancestral times, the leaders of Yirritja moiety clans used fire for the first time during a ceremony at Ngalarrwuy in Gumatj country. This came about as fire brought to the Madarrpa clan country by Bäru the ancestral crocodile, spread north and swept through the ceremonial ground. From this ceremonial ground the fire spread further to other sites. Various ancestral animals were affected and reacted in different ways. These animals became sacred totems of the Gumatj people and the areas associated with these events became important sites.

The fire spread inland from the ceremonial ground and burnt the nest of Wangkurra forcing him to hide in a hollow log (Larrakitj) to save himself. Wangkurra is thus danced and sung at mortuary ceremony as he is associated with the burial log used to contain the bones of the deceased.

Djirrikitj, the quail, (sometimes called the ’fire making bird’), picked up a burning twig from this fire and flew away with it, dropping it at Matamata. There is a large paperbark swamp at Matamata, where native honey bees live. Fire from the burning twig dropped by Djirrikitj took hold of the tall grass in the swamp area and the native bees fled to Djiliwirri in Gupapuyngu clan country. Thus Gupapuyngu honey and Gumatj fire are linked through these ancestral events and also refer to a relationship between these two clans which is played out in ceremony.

Gumatj clan design associated with these events, a diamond design, represents fire; the red flames, the white smoke and ash, the black charcoal and the yellow dust. Clans owning connected parts of this sequence of ancestral events share variations of this diamond design.

© Buku Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre

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