David MALANGI DAYMIRRINGU | Wurrpan (Emu sculpture)

Australia 1927 – 1999
Wurrpan (Emu sculpture)
sculpture in shape of emu made of paperbark bound with string and painted 1990
Ceremonial artefact
paperbark, string, natural pigment
92.0 (h) x 6.5 (w) cm
Acquired 1990 with Mobil Oil Funds. Mobil Yathalamarra collection Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Collection, Darwin
© David Malangi. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
VIEW: Article |

When Burala went to Bilimarr it met Ganbada or Wurrpan, the ancestral Emu, who had also travelled there from the east. At Bilimarr, the Emu met up with Emus from other clan groups. They all travelled with their chicks to Bilimar to perform the garma, public songs associated with the Djalumbu [hollow log] ceremony.

The gullies that run into Bilimarr are said to be the tracks of the Emus that came there from different countries, and a clearing in the bush nearby is attributed to them stamping their feet and dancing. The Emu dance is performed in a range of public ceremonies and the design associated with Bilimarr of a number of tracks converging in the centre is one of the repertoire of patterns used during sacred rituals.

People’s country affiliations are reflected in their personal names, derived from important totemic beings, for example one of Malangi’s wives, Elsie Ganbada is named after the ancestral Emu, Ganbada.

That’s Bilimar that’s the story … that’s what we call sacred site. That’s a different one, sacred one … This name Emu, Emu name is Ganbada. He puts his foot there to dance [stamps the earth]. Makes a noise umhummm. Ganbada, that’s Wurrpan. Yes. Malangi, 1989[1]

[1] David Malangi from an interview with Margie West at Ramingining and Yathalamarra, September 20–21, 1989.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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.

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