Earth pigments on Wood
138 x 8cm
Burrut’tji ga Gany’tjurr
Baraltja is the residence of Burrut’tji (also known as Mundukul) the lightning serpent. It is an area of flood plains that drain into northern Blue Mud Bay. It is on country belonging to the Madarrpa and denotes an area of special qualities pertaining to fertility and the mixing of waters.
From Madarrpa (and Dhalwaŋu clan) land freshwater spreads onto the Baraltja flood plains with the onset of the Wet. A tidal creek into the Bay flows with the freshwater flushing the brackish mix into the sea over an ever shifting sandbar (the snake manifest). The deep hole that he lives in is Lorr.
Freshwater enters the tidal mud flats at Baraltja that is residence of the Lightning Snake for the Madarrpa. The lightning Snake facing upstream, upon tasting the freshwater coming down stands on his tail and by way of spitting lightning into the sky communicates with the Ṉuŋurrdulpuyŋu and his contemporaries from other associated clans.
The same can be said for the other who faces towards the south towards another Madarrpa area called Guminiyawiny, Numbulwar way, producing storm fronts and boomerang shaped jet streams with its message. These events are sung with the aid of Napunda the boomerang shaped click sticks that are represented by the same shapes of the jet-steams that feather the storms front. Songs associated with Baraltja are normally intoned at the completion of men’s ceremony for the Madarrpa and associate clans.
So as a harpoon travels or does lightning the estates are connected spiritually in a multi directional way – both to and from, a cyclic phenomenon which is chronicled in the sacred songs that narrate these Ancestral actions over land, through the sea and ether.
It is worth noting that Yolŋu ‘science’ portrays this energy burst as coming up from the land which is now recognised by Western science as the precursor to downward lightning ‘strikes’.
The wayin (bird) referenced in this piece is Gany’tjurr (Reef Heron) which is identified with as the archetypal Yirritja hunter.