Colour reduction linocut
Image: 39 x 49cm, Paper: 56 x 76cm BFK RIVES
The cross hatching grid pattern is the sacred design for the freshwaters of the Djapu clan at their homeland Wandawuy now an outstation about 150 kilometres south of Yirrkala and inland from Blue Mud Bay.
This Djapu clan outstation (and spiritual residence for Ancestral Beings Mäna the Shark and Bol’ŋu the Thunderman) is surrounded by permanent freshwater. Rains inspired by the actions of Bol’u feed the rivers and fill the billabongs. Catfish and mussels, freshwater crayfish and others feed the Yolŋu and wild life. The waters are home for the shark Mäna. The grid refers to the landscape of Wandawuy- a network of billabongs surrounded by ridges and high banks. Its structure also having reference at one level to woven fish traps.
Ancestral Hunters set a trap here to snare the Shark but to no avail. These Yolŋu people are called Bärngbarng and Monu`a who came to cut the trees named Gu`uwu, Gathurrmakarr, Nyenyi, Rulwirrika and Gananyarra – all Dhuwa trees.
Mäna the Ancestral Shark in its epic travels comes through this way. These ancestors try to trap Mäna in the freshwater by means of these traps in the waterways. They fail. The powers and physical strength of the Shark overcome the efforts of mere mortals. Mäna’s ire and thrashing tail smash the trap and muddy the water.
They witness however the strength of Mäna and sing his actions, the thrashing of his tail for one, the muddying or contamination of the water. The lines having reference to the trap, the verticals referring to differing states of the freshwater – the source of Djapu soul.
Recent surveys by Anglo scientists in Top End rivers in Kakadu have revealed the existence of a species of shark whose life cycle takes place entirely in the freshwater. A genus otherwise unknown to Western thought in Australia but present in PNG now known in English as Speartooth.
Wandawuy literally means place of the Sharks head where in the larger context of the song cycles of Mäna’s journey his head came to rest after being butchered and distributed through the land.