Dhambit Ruypu Munuŋgurr
Ḏawu – Tree of Knowledge
Image Size: 98.5 x 50.2cm; Paper Size: 122 x 69.5cm; Paper: Hahnemuhle

ID: 4554-23


SKU: 4554-23ae Category: Tag:


dhambit-ruypu munungurr
Etching and Screenprint
Image Size: 98.5 x 50.2cm; Paper Size: 122 x 69.5cm; Paper: Hahnemuhle
Year: 2023
ID: 4554-23

Ḏawu – Tree of Knowledge


This work illustrates Ḏawu the Tree of Knowledge – a sacred Banyan tree at Galupa which was in the way of the massive Aluminium processing plant constructed during the early 70s as part of the Gove Nabalco Bauxite mine imposed upon the Yolngu. Dhambit’s ŋathi (mother’s father) Mungurrawuy stood before the bulldozers that were to demolish this important tree.

As well as spearheading the legal fight against this development (in part through his son Galarrwuy Yunupingu who was interpreter in the Gove Land Rights Case). His efforts bore fruit and to this day within a huge industrial complex is the Banyan tree which he saved under which many of his clansmen had been born.

Below is an excerpt of the entry for this species in Miḏawarr/Harvest by Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs

 Ḏawu/Rripipi (Dhuwa)

Ficus virens


  • a large spreading deciduous tree to 30 metres tall, with a conspicuous buttresses and prop roots; young trees are epiphytes and become independent as they get older and bigger
  • ovate-lanceolate to elliptic-ovate leaves to 20 centimetres in length and 7 centimetres in width
  • male and female flowers enclosed in the same fig
  • globular white figs, becoming purple to black when fully ripe, to 15 millimetres in width
  • grows in a variety of habitats, including open woodlands and jungles, often near water; occurs across north Australia, and is widespread in the Top End of the Northern Territory.


Yindi dhuwalany dharpa dhäwu’mirr ga maayin’, dharpa dhuwalany rripipi mokuywu dhanbulwa. Borumtja dhipuŋur dharpaŋur yumurrku yurr gurrŋan’mirr ŋunhi ŋayi dhuwal borumthirrny yurr, balanyar bili bitjan djipu yurr yutjuwaan.

Wiripuny ŋanapurr yurr marram maniŋunya dhipuŋur dharpaŋur rakiwnha djämaw. Dhiyaŋ rakiy ŋanapurr yurr djäma bathi, wäyuk, ga wiripu malanynha maayin. Warrawny’ ŋayi dhuwal dharpa bukmakkun yolŋuy dhinanharaw, warumuknha githunamiriwnha.



awu is a Dhuwa tree. Also known as rripipi. A big one. A haven for animals and birds, and Yolŋu songs and belief hold that this is the tree for Dhuwa spirits. But whoever is born at Yirrkala is known as Dhanbul, whether they are Yirritja or Dhuwa, and this tree is for them. Dhanbul spirits live within this tree. In its branches and in its crevices. These spirits give us the waa (arms) or aerial roots which are used to make dillybags and armbands for sacred ceremonies.

My father, Roy Marika, and I planted a banyan tree at the school in the seventies. It is in the centre of the school. Whenever the fruit ripens from green to white to purple and then finally black, the birds and the kids attack it and eat it straight away. Like the Dhanbul spirits they are, the children play under the awu all day.

In the early 1970s my grandfather, Munggurrawuy Yunupingu, stood against the bulldozers alone, armed only with an axe, to stop the mining company Nabalco destroying the ancient awu known as the Tree of Knowledge. It still survives, covered in bauxite dust, surrounded by a chain link fence within the refinery.




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Dhambit Ruypu Munuŋgurr
Ḏawu – Tree of Knowledge
Image Size: 98.5 x 50.2cm; Paper Size: 122 x 69.5cm; Paper: Hahnemuhle

ID: 4554-23

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