Earth pigments on Stringybark
78cm x 48.5cm
Dhän’pala- King or Queen of Shellfish in East Arnhem is one that sustains many people and anchors many hunting trips. Found by feeling with feet or combing with hands, knife blades or rakes or sometimes just spotted as cryptic lips just poking free of the mud or as a hole or crack in the surface of the mud indicating a subsidence below where she has moved.
Geloina oviformis, Mud Mussel, (previous scientific names Gelonia coaxans, Polymesoda erosa). Also known in Yolŋu matha as dhäkururru, rägudha, räwiya, rruŋundhaŋaniŋ, yiwaḻkurr, yuwaḻkurr. In mangroves and the muddy floodplains adjacent. There is a technique where a small fire is constructed using specially chosen size and type of kindling around a stacked pyramid of Dhän’pala so that one ignition will cook and open as many as thirty at one time.
Rägudha is another name for kneecap. They are Dhuwa. In this pole the Dhän’pala are depicted lying hidden in the mud at the top of the pole. Hidden aside them are Djiny’djalma or Nyuka. Yolŋu women trek for kilometres atop the network of buttress roots anchoring the mangrove forest in the sweet black mud. There is a rhythm to the mud which a buried mud crab disturbs and their holes which are often wedged into hidden sections beneath the trees are visible to only the trained eye. Then begins the task of extracting the crab with massive vice like pincers from their deep dark wet hole usually with bare hands!