Homeland: Biranybirany
Clan: Gumatj
Moiety: Yirritja

Barrupu is a daughter of Munggurrawuy. Her siblings include Australians of the Year, Galarrwuy and Mandawuy and Gulumbu Telstra First Prize Winner. Her mother from the Marrakulu clan was Bunay Wanambi, who was a cow herd for the mission at Yirrkala. Barrapu has always lived at Yirrkala. As a child and with her father and family she went to the Yirrkala Mission School, taught by Mr Ron Croxford. With the school she traveled to Darwin with Yirrkala netball team recalling also her athletic talent as a high jumper. At the Yirrkala Clinic/hospital (now from where Buku-Larrnggay Mulka operates) Barrupu trained and worked as a nurse for many years till its closure in 1975. Her closest sister is Nyapanyapa with whom she has worked as a print artist through Buku-Larrnggay since 1996. Barrupu’s output of bark paintings increased in 2007. The rise in prominence of Nyapanyapa’s bark painting and subsequent successes in 2008 was catalyst in developing her own painting style that gained signature and firm interest from her art centre. Since 2008 Barrupu has been ‘working’ at her painting almost daily at the art centre, the same place she worked as a nurse in the 60’s and 70’s. Those that saw her father paint acknowledge her similar feel. Her commitment to working at Buku-Larrnggay premises continued from 2008 through to the present (2012). She worked almost every day usually in the courtyard with her sister. One of the idiosyncracies of Barrupu is that in the period which she has being making major art on bark and poles in this theme she has reinvented herself each calendar year. Her first year saw bold yellow and red verticals. These works were only shown at Yirrkala during Garma in 2009 and were heavily acquired by Institutions. In 2010 her show at Raft in Alice Springs saw a horizontal cross current. In 2011 the works which went to the Alcaston Gallery show went dark. Its as if the fire has passed leaving ash, charcoal and embers. This dynamic is unprompted and unexplained but provides a satisfying means of following her career. The documentation for the exhibition at Alcaston Gallery in April 2012 read; “The Memory of Fire. The Gumatj clan sacred design which Barrupu paints is gurtha or fire. But not just any fire. This is a Fire of supernatural intensity. So powerful that it transforms the land it touched for all time. its identity is etched into every atom of Gumatj land it spread, or was carried, to. Or more accurately the identity of the land holds the memory of The Fire (capitalised like ‘The Flood’ of the Bible). The Victorian fires help us understand the message carried in this ancient pattern. This design is sacred because it reveals a hidden secret. After all the trees have grown back and the living witnesses have died there will be no outward sign of such a cataclysm. But long after that the land still remembers; it’s DNA permanently altered. The incomprehensible power of that fire is burnt into the land forever though all else is healed. It is important to remember. Fire is also domesticity and the hearth, light, warmth, cooked food, security. The flaming tongues are a language of creativity and truth and the sparks are offspring and generative. But this design keeps alight the memory of that unimaginable fire to dwarf all other fires. This revelation of ancestral knowledge is brought to Victorians who have a capacity to understand what is being shared. The indelible, transcendental Memory of Fire.” It was a complete shock when she suddenly passed away in December 2012. Her period of working in the courtyard of Buku-Larrnggay from 2008-2012 produced a magnificent body of work in barks and poles which remained very consistent but evolved. Her fluid dynamic unconstrained style of mark making was a match for her totally unaffected uproarious personality which could fluctuate from simmering fury to roaring laughter in an instant. She was genuinely a ‘fire lady’ which is how she has become known. Her absence from the courtyard created a void in the daily life of the art centre.