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Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Barayuwa Munuŋgurr


20 Sep 1980 -

Language group

Djapu, Arnhem region


Barayuwa Munuŋgurr has been painting since 2007 while also working as an arts worker at Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka, Yirrkala. Over time he has developed a very skilled hand and he is now coming to prominence painting both his own Djapu clan designs as well as his mother’s Munyuku clan designs. His experimental depiction of the whalebones at Yarrinya are entirely his own, a growing trend in many of the younger generation of painters now working for Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka.

'Yarrinya' 2015 refers to the Munyuku saltwater estate within Blue Mud Bay, which is Munuŋurr’s mother’s country. Significantly it was at Blue Mud Bay that Yolŋu people gained Sea Rights over thier waters. Munuŋgurr paints the clan designs associated with the whale called Mirinyunju.

The whale bones painted in 'Yarrinya' 2015 recall events that unravelled on the Yarrinya Ocean in which Munyuku men (Wurramala or Matjitji) hunt their own brother, a whale called Mirinyuŋu. After the dead whale washes up onto the beach, the men used stone knives (garapana) to cut its body into strips and then fling the knife into the ocean, where it becomes a sharp reef. The remains of the whale and the ocean rocks are combined in a spiritual manner which is extremely significant to Munyuku people, and elements from this scene, such as the whale’s tail, its bones and even the lines from the surface of the water, are incorporated as motifs that are employed in ceremony.

The story of the whale’s demise and its kinship with the hunters, is the basis for this important site and clan design: the bones from the skeleton are imbued with cultural and ceremonial significance to Munyuku people.


Cultural origin

Djapu/Arnhem region



Media category


Materials used

natural pigments on board


122.0 x 122.0 cm


Wendy Barron Bequest Fund 2015


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Barayuwa Munuŋgurr

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Sentient lands, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Jun 2016–08 Oct 2017