64 x 100cm
Barayuwa has created this print to honour his mother’s Munyuku clan, inspired by her brother, the late ritual specialist and artist Ḏula Ŋurruwutthun. It is associated with the ancestral events relating to the death of the ancestral whale called Mirinyuŋu on the beaches of the Munyuku saltwater estate of Yarrinya within Blue Mud Bay. Known in English as Point Blane.
In ancestral times, a whale called Mirinyuŋu was living in the ocean at Yarrinya. The whale, being Munyuku, was in its own country. Munyuku spirit men called Wurramala or Matjitji lived and hunted in this country. According to Yolŋu kinship classifications, the whale is the ‘brother’ of these men. They killed their brother Mirinyuŋu, who eventually washed up onto the beach, contaminating it with blood and fat turning putrid.
This is how the Wurramala found the whale on the beach. They used stone knives, Garapana. The tail severed from its body, the men then cut the body of the whale into long strips. In (self-)disgust they then threw the knives out to sea. This formed a dangerous and potent hidden reef of the same name. Within the design are the bones of the whale on the beach made sacred with the essence of Mirinyuŋu. The directions of the bands of miny’tji (sacred clan design) relate to the sacred saltwater of Yarrinya, the chop on the surface of the water and the ancestral powers emanating from it. Fratricide, the stench of death, slicks of fat and blood and swarms of flies, regret and grief. With the eventual cleansing act of the knives being flung into the sea.
The whale’s tail is seen as Raŋga, sacred ceremonial object, and employed in ceremony. The bones of the whale are also said to have become a part of the rocks in the ocean. Bones are thought of as the essence of a person. From this description it is evident that the rock and the whale are combined in a spiritual manner which is extremely significant to Munyuku people. There may be some echo of a reference to a related Munyuku icon, the anchor – a symbol of rock-like foundation for the family.
In 2013 Barayuwa started to hide the elements of a whale skeleton in this style of work. A work in the NATSIAA of this year was Highly Commended by the judges and caught the eye of the Director of the NGA Ron Radford who commissioned a work. An installation which was exhibited at the NCCA in Darwin led MCAA Director Liz-Anne McGregor to commission a conceptual wall work for their permanent collection.
There is perhaps a hidden reference to the dangers of overconsumption. The resources of highly prized fat in a beached whale are equivalent to gold in a hunting society. But in the temperatures and conditions of the Top End the dangers of contamination are real. But also a decomposing whale can become a literal bomb and the internet shows videos of massive explosions when the stomach cavity is pierced releasing the pent up gases.
This print was created by the initial collage of glue and sand being layed down on a board which was printed from and then a second layer of screenprint overprinted with the finer marwat (cross hatch).