Earth pigments on Wood
54 x 5.5cm
Gany’tjurr is the reef heron totemic to several of the Yirritja clan groups that inhabit the areas around Blue Mud Bay. Its actions during Ancestral times are sung by these Yirritja in shared manikay (sacred and ritual song) usually pertaining to the movement of the tides. It is the archetypal Yirritja male spear hunter and is danced that way. Yolŋu hunters mirror the strategy of this bird which is also enshrined in the dance. The bird crouches and creeps forward as the small rippling waves enter the shallows. The foam obscures the view of the prey. The hunter stands up as the waters still and recede and spears down to fix the fish with it’s beak.
Ŋoŋu has painted the waters of Wulwala, close to Cape Wilberforce. The waters are dotted with the life force of the Waŋguri clan. This, a sacredness, stem from the waters having passed through clan land estates, the fertile areas of tidal mangrove estuaries, tidal zones and over sacred country under the sea, where octopus Mända live as custodians to the region before being taken out to the horizons to be taken up into the maternal waŋupini (Cumulo nimbus) that comes back over the sea to the lands raining the essence back to the cycle of water. This is Ŋoŋu’s mother clan within which he holds the position of Djuŋgaya a cultural Trustee.
The design on this sculpture relates to the journey of a sacred object/being through Wangurri clan waters. In saltwaters belonging to that clan from their homeland at Mutamul towards their freshwater homeland at Dhalinybuy. The minyjti or sacred clan design can have different meanings. One is a manifestation in the tracks left in timber from infestation from the boring mangrove worm Milka. Bands of miny’tji represents this and by the layering of hair brush strokes, that build up to a shimmering and brilliant state, itself a manifestation (we can only imagine) of the sublime and to the references this painting could have of the end results of supernatural events and the peace brought after as rays of sun on the calm waters, a condition called gunbilk. The waters that travel through the mangrove areas, (where the Milka infest the wood), that wash with the tides to be taken with the currents out deep to the horizons meet with associate waters from other estates relative to the Wangurri, such as the Maŋgalili.