Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art
Early Bark Paintings and Sculpture - pre 1980 gallery See nearby items (accurate to +/- 12 hrs)


Djambarrpuyngu people

Australia born 1912 /1916 – c.1970s

Storm (c.1960) Place made: Milingimbi, Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions: 121.5 h x 53.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1984
Accession No: NGA 84.747.2
Image rights: © Buranday, Licensed by Viscopy
  • Djambarrpuyngu and Murrungun, [sing the] same [song] for Morning Star. I sing Djang’kawu [Sisters]—they [the Sisters] were paddling across the sea and looked up to see the Morning Star. This Djambarrpuyngu is a bigger song for Banumbirr [Morning Star].[1]

    Buranday was one of the many Djambarrpuyngu speakers who moved to Milingimbi Island soon after the Methodist Church established a mission there in 1923. Another family of Djambarrpuyngu lived on the mainland opposite Milingimbi, near Banumbangurr on the Glyde River—the Murrungun place of the Morning Star. The two language groups share song cycles about the same totemic beings although they sing about different ancestral sites. 

    Milika the flat fish, the moon fish,
    delighted with the return of the east wind
    jumps happily in and out of the water.

    When the moon goes down and sinks into the sea it becomes a fish, Milika, who swims underwater back to the east to rise into the sky again at sunset. In 1962 Buranday and Johnny Djatdjamirrilil (1935–2002), who belonged to a family of renowned ceremonial singers, were recorded singing this song as part of the Morning Star cycle.[2] This canon is divided into land-ways and sea-ways: the Dhuwa land-ways cycle begins with storm clouds that bring the wet season and flood the land animating it with new life. This is the subject of Buranday’s painting. The shape of the thunderhead cloud with the cascades of rain to either side imitates the form of the Morning Star pole used in ceremonies, with its fan of feathers at the top—representing Banumbirr—and feathered strings hanging from it.

    Djon Mundine

    [1] David Malangi, interview by Djon Mundine and Phillipe Peltier, 1995.

    [2] Recorded at Milingimbi by the ethnomusicologist Alice Moyle, 1962, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010