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Manharrngu people

Australia 1927 – 1999

Emus [Emus (No.BP1469)] 1994 Description: A bark shaped at corners. Central roundel with lines radiating from it towards the edges. Within these lines are emu footprints. In sections between the lines emus are depicted.
Place made: Yathalamarra, central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions: 90.0 h x 63.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1995
Accession No: NGA 95.294
Image rights: © David Malangi Daymirringu. Licensed by Viscopy

When Burala went to Bilimarr it met Ganbada or Wurrpan, the ancestral Emu, who had also travelled there from the east. At Bilimarr, the Emu met up with Emus from other clan groups. They all travelled with their chicks to Bilimar to perform the garma, public songs associated with the Djalumbu [hollow log] ceremony.

The gullies that run into Bilimarr are said to be the tracks of the Emus that came there from different countries, and a clearing in the bush nearby is attributed to them stamping their feet and dancing. The Emu dance is performed in a range of public ceremonies and the design associated with Bilimarr of a number of tracks converging in the centre is one of the repertoire of patterns used during sacred rituals.

People’s country affiliations are reflected in their personal names, derived from important totemic beings, for example one of Malangi’s wives, Elsie Ganbada is named after the ancestral Emu, Ganbada.

That’s Bilimar that’s the story … that’s what we call sacred site. That’s a different one, sacred one … This name Emu, Emu name is Ganbada. He puts his foot there to dance [stamps the earth]. Makes a noise umhummm. Ganbada, that’s Wurrpan. Yes. Malangi, 1989[1]

[1] David Malangi from an interview with Margie West at Ramingining and Yathalamarra, September 20–21, 1989.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Excerpt from Margie West, ‘Yathalamara — land of the waterlily’ in the exhibition catalogue No ordinary place: the art of David Malangi, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2004, p. 42–50. 

The publication, which includes articles by the exhibition curator Susan Jenkins, Nigel Lendon and Djon Mundine, is available from the Gallery Shop for $34.95 (RRP $49.95) or online at ngashop.com.au.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra