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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Yathalamarra story



Dr David Malaŋi


1927 - 19 Jun 1999

Language group

Manyarrngu, Arnhem region


Just as in the Dhuwa land certain spiritual forces such as the djang’kawu made waterholes of a sacred nature and shaped the land, it is also true in the yirritja world.

At Yathalamarra, several Wangarr (creative beings) made a special waterhole which has now grown to become the twin kidney shaped lagoons of present day Yathalamarra. A Burala (Diver duck), is said to have dived into the earth, hitting the ground and splitting it with his beak, making a fresh water spring. An archetypal being in the form of Watu (dog) also travelled this way and made a fresh water hole with his penis.

About this time, two spirit women lived in the billabong resulting from these actions. It is also said that they made the waterhole with their powerful digging sticks. The water hole created by all of this concentrated action was full of life – birds, insect life, fresh water fish (such as Ginginy) and waterlilies. The spirit of these women moved about through the water hunting as present day women hunt for edible roots and bulbs. The stem, flower and roots and bulbs of the waterlily can all be eaten. The women carried collecting bags made from a segde grass found on the shore called mewini or ratjarrk. The open weave bag is known as mewini from these grasses and the women.

Yathalamarra means 'the place of the lotus flower'. The flower represents the 'evening star'. Just as Dhuwa being send out the morning star on a string for Dhuwa places, so Yirritja spirits keep the evening star in a dilly bag and let it out to visit all Yirritja places; the stalk of the flower being synonymous with the string. Gindjimirri, whose work appears here is Balmbi and owns the land, her name means lotus flower.

[Art Centre documentation]


Other Title

Yathalamarra waterhole - his mother's land



Media category

Bark painting

Materials used

natural pigments on bark


112.0 x 71.5 cm (irreg.)

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1984


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Dr David Malaŋi

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history