Earth pigments on Stringybark
The journey of freshwater through country to the sea is thematic for many of the clan groups of north east Arnhem Land. This painting depicts an area on the Baykultji River called Garkawili. This is an ancestral site for the Madarrpa clan that is today uninhabited. Djambawa who has particularly close ties with this area away from Baniyala where he lives and where this painting was produced tells of a large tree log that spans the river at Garkawili which is named Dhupayupa.
This water is still fire imbued as the agent of metamorphoses of Baru himself from human to reptile. The diamond design occurs also in the setate of Yathikpa where baru was burnt and changed into crocodile form.The diamonds in this design however are notched with a set of small bars which indicate the presence of the log traversing the water and thereby denoting Baykultji.
This barrier marks the division between salt affected and fresh waters.In sacred song Baru the ancestral crocodile sits on the seaward side accompanied by his disciples Baliny and Nyungala (Barramundi and Ox-eye herring) waiting for his prey (wallaby).Gany’tjurr the Reef heron is an archetype of the Yirritja moiety male hunter like the artist himself. In this version the horizontal barrette through the diamonds indicates that this is the area with a barrier across the river. Baru is shown in wait and two crocodiles await their prey.
Dhupayupa is also the name of its manifestation as the hollow log coffin or larrakitj. Djambawa speaks of a large hollow log that was placed with the remains of an ancestor within closeby that should still be there. In painting this significant area previous visits are recalled by the artist and subsequent visits planned.
The fields either side of Dhupuyupa at Garkawili represent the freshwaters that come from Madarrpa estates futher upstream for the ‘top’ Madarrpa or otherwise called the Ŋuŋurrdulpuyŋu group that flow to the sea at Baraltja on the coast of Blue Mud Bay at the lesser Djalma Bay.
The course of this water connects the Madarrpa land estates, originally through the powers and travels of Bäru imbuing the waters and land with the special qualities enough to lay claim of ownership to those that stem from it.