Earth pigments on Stringybark hollow pole
220 x 18cm
Wanapati is a young son of high profile artist Minyawany #1. He is working in the same style of his father who passed away in July 2008 The paintings produced by the contemporary Yolŋu artists of rank, qualified by their own kin systems, their art centre and market place contain elements of a profound and secret nature. Manifest in these sacred designs is the knowledge that is the key to the essence of Yolŋu Rom (law). The Rom has its foundation in the ancient chronicles of the times around the first morning. The chronicles in the form of manikay (ceremonial song), miny’tji (sacred design) and bungul (traditional dance) tell of Ancestral Deeds of Creation. The place where Yolŋu confer, philosophise and relive these times and the relationships these events have with Yolŋu Rom is reserved for the most senior rank of men. As with the Madarrpa clan, the Gumatj revere the Ancestral Crocodile Bäru and its associations with the Ancestral Fire. Much of the surface mythology has similarities between the two clans but are unequivocally separate as each clan sings of events of different place and country. This has been qualified in this work by Wanapati by using iconography in conjunction with design that can only have reference to the Gumatj land around Biranybirany and Ancestral events that occurred there. The cross hatched diamond design of Gumatj fire is constant throughout. The fire or Gurtha is the life force for this clan. Its actions can be related to rejuvenation, knowledge, creation, mortuary, Yolŋu and land. The design depicts the connections between the Yarrwiḏi Gumatj and the Rrakpa`a Gumatj in the sea between Biranybirany and the offshore island Mulmurrŋa. This is a painting of Makarratha or dispute resolution ceremony following conflict. In an ancient conflict between the Crocodile ancestral being, Bäru (in this case representing his offspring the Gumatj from Biranybirany who in modern times use the surname Yunupiŋu) and Gawanalkmirri the ancestral Stingray (who symbolises the Yarrwiḏi Gumatj who now use the surname Munuŋgurritj). These beings clashed over occupancy of Mulmurruŋa island when Baru moved from Biranybirany. This conflict was resolved by the ritual spearing in the thigh of the wrongdoer Bäru. This forged the two clans forever into their Märi-Gutharra (grandmother-grandchild) relationship. There is an echo in this image of crocodile being speared by stingray in different places and between different clans of Yirritja. It appears in the paintings of the sea off Yarrinya to illustrate the same relationship between Munyuku and Maḏarrpa. The ceremony sealed a state of ecstatic peace. This is equated with the glassy millpond mirror-like surface of the sea in the late dry season ‘build-up’ of thunderclouds. Broken only by Dhinimbu -the mackerel- jumping with joy. The Gumatj diamond design holds levels of identity from fire ,honey, saltwater and the bodies of the Gumatj people themselves.