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On display on Level 1


Yithuwa Madarrpa people

Yirrkala, North East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia born 1953

Baraltja, Baykuldji, Munurru

2005 Place made: Baniyala, North East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark
Dimensions: 220.0 h x 81.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2006
Accession No: NGA 2006.903
Image rights: © the artist courtesy Buku-Larrnggay Mulka

More detail

This painting shows Mundukul (Lightning Snake) sending lightning over Madarrpa clan salt waters. My father made a statement in December 1992. This is a translation of some of what he said:

Our clan is known as Madarrpa and our tribal identity is Gunmurrutjpi, Dhanala, Mukurala [deep power names of places key to the creation of Fire]. For those of you who do not know our sacred identity it is Djambuyma, Malarra, Birrwatja, Worrpum, Ganangumirri, Dhathiyala, Wandada, Buryiwurri, Bathiya, Murrnginyangala [power names usually only called in ceremonial incantation, tracing the elements of Madarrpa land and spirit].

Fresh water pouring into the creek at Baraltja makes the Snake stand up and communicate with relations over the salt waters of Blue Mud Bay. There is fire in these salt waters.

Fire is a resource that strengthens these families. It makes them feel confident and strong. They can use its wisdom and knowledge to make themselves stronger and purer.

My language is the tongue of fire. With it I can talk straight and with my mind and my tongue burning I can destroy all falsehood. I can talk really strong and stand firm—not weakly bending. I can face any heavy thing coming without shaking. As I do.

But fire also cools the people down to make them really friendly. The wisdom of the fire can also make people come together ... as a family.

The power of the Fire sustains me in the different things I do.

Djambawa Marawili 2010

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