David MALANGI DAYMIRRINGU | Sacred Catfish and Goanna

Australia 1927 – 1999
Sacred Catfish and Goanna
016-1987 Vertical bark divided by central roundel in vertical band, catfish on left, goanna on right c. 1970s
Bark Painting
natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
74.7 (h) x 42.4 (w) cm
Enid Bowden Memorial Collection Presented by Dr Ross Bowden, 1987 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
© David Malangi. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
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We shall walk along, Sister … making country …

Our heads are grey; we sway our hips as we walk …

Carefully, we leave the sacred basket within the shade …
Let us hang this shining basket upon the tree …
Yes we are walking along … making country …
With hips swaying.

What is that, Sister? Show me? I see a mangrove shell.

Come, pour them in here; put them as sacred, within the mat!
There I saw another of them!
Come, put them into the mouth of the sacred mat.
There is another mangrove shell! ... they are sacred to us!
Here is another Sister, a black periwinkle. Put it within, sacred to us!

The Djan'kawu song cycle — song 138

Berndt RM Djanggawul: An Aboriginal religious cult of North-Eastern Arnhem Land, New York: Philosophical Library, 1953, Song 138 , pp.230–231

Instead of seeking to tell the ‘whole story’ of the Djan'kawu in one picture plane or depict these Ancestors in human form (as could be read in the Gurrmirringu works of Mulanga country), Malangi told their story through traces of their existence.

To find a nonda [a long-bum mussel] in the mud is to find food collected, eaten and created by the Djan'kawu. More than this, the mussel is the essence and spirit of the Djan'kawu. To paint the nonda is to paint the Djan'kawu in a manifestation other than human form.

Painting the Djan'kawu represented both an expression of the everyday and an exploration of Yolngu religious knowledge.

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