David MALANGI DAYMIRRINGU | Burala/Djalumbu [Diver Ducks and Hollow Log Coffin]

Australia 1927 – 1999
[Diver Ducks and Hollow Log Coffin]
928P35 Vertical hollow log coffin left of centre, diver ducks right side, white hatching overall c.1991
Bark painting
natural pigments on plywood
188.8 (h) x 96.0 (w) cm
South Australian Government Grant, 1992 Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
© David Malangi. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
VIEW: Article |

As a symbol of a person’s spirit or soul, fish are prevalent in Yolngu painting and the Ancestral Catfish features as an important part of the Djalumbu [hollow log] ceremony.

Manbiri also came from the east, from Gapuwiyak. While Murayana danced, people ate the Catfish and placed the bones inside the hollow log.

The darter feeds upon catfish and the action of descending to snatch the catfish from underwater is a metaphor for the transition from life to death.

The bones of the catfish which symbolise the bones and soul of the deceased person are expressed as a parallel-line or herringbone pattern in bark paintings as well as on hollow log coffins. Yirritja artist Jimmy Wululu, Malangi’s nephew, who has rights to paint Yathalamarra stories, is best known for his barks and hollow logs decorated with the bone design, as featured in The Aboriginal Memorial in Gallery 1. [1]

[1] ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Excerpt from Margie West, ‘Yathalamara — land of the waterlily’ in the exhibition catalogue No ordinary place: the art of David Malangi, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2004, p. 42–50. 

The publication, which includes articles by the exhibition curator Susan Jenkins, Nigel Lendon and Djon Mundine, is available from the Gallery Shop for $34.95 (RRP $49.95) or online at ngashop.com.au.

NGA Home | Introduction | Gallery | Search | Essays | Previous