David MALANGI DAYMIRRINGU | Djan'kawu waterholes

Australia 1927 – 1999
Djan'kawu waterholes
cross-hatched bands radiating vertically, horizontally and diagonally from central balck roundel 1975-76
Bark Painting
natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
71.0 (h) x 40.5 (w) cm
Gift of Dr Joseph Reser 1990 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 1990.1080
© David Malangi. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
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The two Djan'kawu Sisters came from the east; they changed their language when they got to Dhämala. They named the people and the places and became part of the tribe. This is Milminydjarrk where the waterhole is. This area is called Dhämala at the mouth of the Glyde River. Malangi, 1996

The Mirrmirrngur Milminydjarrk design, a tiny but important waterhole created by the Djan'kawu is depicted as a central roundel from which bands radiate to the edges and corners of the picture, where smaller roundels or squares are placed. The radiating motif signals a number of associations including the rays of the sun which the Djan'kawu took with them on their travels, and traces the tracks between creation sites.

Malangi’s paintings of Milminydjarrk are based on this Djan'kawu template and are site-specific. Milminydjarrk is the name given to this particular waterhole but is also a generic name given to a freshwater spring.

Surrounding it at Dhämala and in its representations are smaller waterholes connected by a subterranean channel system of linked waterways. The yellow crosshatching in the negative spaces in this case represents water run-off across these vast mud plains, and the ebb and flow of seasonal rains and river tides. Conversely, it lends a visual reference to the cycles of nature and the woven fibres of the birthing mat which brings forth life.

In Yolngu cosmology, the clan waterhole is the spiritual reservoir where the souls of the unborn reside and where upon death the souls of the deceased return ‘home’. The established template for expressing Milminydjarrk bears a relationship to the ceremonial aspect of the Manharrngu in the form of a body design in ceremony, and the basis for a sand sculpture used in smoking or cleansing rituals.

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