DETAIL : Jimmy BAKER 'Katatjita' 2006 synthetic polymer paint on canvas, Courtesy of Marshall Arts Aboriginal Fine Art Gallery, � Jimmy Baker
Gulumbu YUNUPINGU | Gan'yu (Stars)

Australia 1943 /1947
Gan'yu (Stars) 2005
natural earth pigment on hollow log
variable 234.0 (h) x 21.0 (w) cm
Courtesy of Annabel and Rupert Myer
© Gulumbu Yunupingu

Gan’yuis the Yolngu word for stars. The first story is about two sisters called Guthayguthay and Nhayay. Guthayguthay is the elder sister and sits at the biggest fire, and Nhayay, who is the youngest sister, has a smaller fire. The elder sister is able to carry bigger firewood than the younger sister, who can only carry small firewood. The sisters were once people, but long ago they turned into stars that sit in the sky under the Milky Way.

When the seasons here are hot the two sisters are arguing and sitting apart from each other with different fires. These arguments are often over a man called Marrngu. When the seasons are cooler the two sisters are seen sitting together by one big fire. They are surrounded by more stars when they are sitting together. When you look in the sky long enough you will see two women figures sitting near two bright stars, which are their fires burning.

The second story is about seven sisters who went out in their canoe called djulpan. During certain seasons, they go hunting and always come back with different types of food: turtles, fish and freshwater snakes, and also bush foods like yams and berries. They can be seen in the sky of a night, seven stars that come out together.

The stars come in season when the food and berries come out, the stars will travel through the sky during that month until the season is over and they don’t come out until the next season. Yunupingu’s father told her about these seven sisters in a canoe, and the three brothers who came behind them, following them. They travel west. There are special stars in the sky which Yolngu call wishing stars. They give Yolngu bush tucker; they multiply the foods in the sea – that’s why Yolngu are happy to see them. That’s what Yunupingu’s father told her.

When she looks at the stars, Yunupingu thinks about the universe, all around, and about every tribe, every colour. In every corner of the world people can look up and see the stars. This is Yunupingu’s vision – in her art, she focuses on the link between all people everywhere. The link between people on earth and stars in the sky – it’s real. Yunupingu links this to the idea of garma, where people from everywhere and of all different groups come and relax, look up and see the stars.

Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre