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Barayuwa Munuŋgurr


20 Sep 1980 –

Language group: Djapu, Arnhem region

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Yirrkala North-east Arnhem Land Northern Territory Australia
    Media categories
    Metalwork , Sculpture
    Materials used
    90.0 x 40.0 cm
    Mollie Gowing Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Aboriginal Art 2021
    Yiribana Gallery
    Accession number
    © Barayuwa Mununggurr courtesy Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Yirrkala

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Barayuwa Munuŋgurr

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Barayuwa Munuŋgurr has been exhibiting since 2007, painting both his own Djapu clan designs as well as his mother’s Munyuku clan designs. Munuŋgurr is a well recognised artist who creates large scale installations as well as bark paintings, larrakitj and films. He was a finalist in the Veolia Acquistive Award and John Fries Art Award in 2017 and a finalist in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award in 2020.
    The art centre documentation for the work states:
    ‘Barayuwa has painted his mother’s Munyuku clan’s design, 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. With 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, a 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. There is perhaps a hidden reference to the dangers of over consumption. 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. 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.’

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

Other works by Barayuwa Munuŋgurr