Ŋoŋu Ganambarr
76 x 12 x 11 cm


ID: 651-22

1 in stock

SKU: 40604-21BL2021-1-1-1 Category: Tags: ,


Ŋoŋu Ganambarr
Earth pigments on wood
76 x 12 x 11 cm
Year: 2021
ID: 8545-21


This Galumay or Pelican wears the design of Dhuwa moiety clan the Daṯiwuy.

In the Wet Season rains inspired by the actions of Bolŋu (the Thunderman- embodiment of Wet Season) feed the rivers and fill the billabongs. Catfish and mussels, freshwater crayfish and others feed the Yolŋu and wild life.

With nets constructed similarly to the the beak of Galumay the Pelican the Yolŋu wade through the waters scooping up the fish. It has been fished since Ancestral times.

Yolŋu have always used a triangular, scissor-like net made from the bark of the Kurrajong to catch fish imitating their ancestral relation the Pelican. If a member of the clan has offended against another and is required to be brought to account under Yolŋu law those escorting him to the place of justice will dance the Pelican relying on the qualities of gentle shepherding inherent in the fishing style and bill of this great hunter. And lastly but most importantly once the long and complicated mortuary rituals of the Yolŋu are completed and the spirit of their departed kinsman has been ‘sung’ through the ancestral songlines of his kinship country back to the ‘island of the dead’, Buralku, it is the Pelican or fish trap which catches the soul of the deceased and guides it to its destination and final resting place.

This work is made from renewable wood which is usually harvested from the tree in the dry season. Preferred woods are Maḻwan (Hibiscus Tiliaceus), Gunhirr (Blind-Your-Eye-Mangrove), Wuḏuku (mangrove wood), Barraṯa (Kapok). The first activity is to enter the monsoon vine thicket and cut the wood and carry it back to the vehicle. Often a long hike through prickly vines and scrub.

The wood is skinned and left to dry for a short period. It is then shaped by knife or axe. After the surface is sanded smooth a layer of red paint is usually the first to go down. The paints used are earth pigments. The red (meku), yellow (Gaŋgul) and black (gurrŋan) are provided by rubbing rocks of these colours against a grinding stone and then adding water and PVA glue in small quantities. Traditionally a plant resin would have been used as a fixative instead. A new batch of paint is prepared or renewed every few minutes as it dries or is used up.

After an outline of the composition is laid down the marwat or crosshatching commences. This is applied using a brush made of a few strands of straight human hair usually from a young woman or girl. The artist charges the marwat (brush) with the paint and then paints away from themselves in a straight line. Each stroke requires a fresh infusion of pigment.

The last layer to be applied is almost always the white clay or gapan which is made from kaolin harvested from special sites. This also has water and glue added after being crushed into a fine powder. An alternative to painting the cross hatching is to use a razor to incise fine lines and reveal the light coloured wood underneath.


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