• 6. Gomu', 2023
  • 6. Gomu', 2023
  • 6. Gomu', 2023
  • 6. Gomu', 2023

Munhala Dhamarrandji

6. Gomu', 2023

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Gomu' are a form of hermit crab who are sung by the Djambarrpuyŋu. The edible species are known as Ŋukaliya or Variegated Hermit Crab Clibanarius taeniatus. But the Maypal, Mayili ga Wäŋa- Shellfish, meaning and place dictionary suggests that Gomu' are inedible and that they prefer the shell shapes known as Ḻaḻaywarra and barawatharr. Gomu' is known as 'Hermit Crab' or Coenobita perlatus. It is much more heavily built than Ŋukaliya and the shells it refers are round rather than pointed. The Djambarrpuyŋu songs of turtle hunters divulge that as the turtle is butchered according to strict protocols relating to cuts and priority division the Gomu' rise to the top of the sand attracted by the smell.

  • Dimensions: 216 x 16cm
  • Cat No. 3924-23

The Ḻarrakitj had its traditional use for the Yolŋu of North east Arnhem Land as an ossuary or bone container erected as a memorial to a dead kinsman up to a decade after death. After death the body of the deceased was often ceremonially placed on a raised plaƞorm and left to the elements for an appropriate time. The area would then be abandoned until the next stage of the ritual. This took place once it was determined that the essential eternal spirit of the deceased had completed its cyclical journey to the spring from which it had originated and would in time return again. This might be several years.

Whilst the body was ‘lying in state’ others got wind of the death, perhaps by subliminal message and made preparations to journey to the site of mortuary. Usually enough time had elapsed for the bones of the deceased to be naturally cleansed on the plaƞorm. The essence of the soul within the bone was made ready for final rites when other outside participants necessary for its safe journey arrived. Ritual saw the bones of the deceased placed within the termite hollowed memorial pole for final resting. Mortuary ritual would end with the placement of the Ḻarrakitj containing the bones standing in the bush. Over time the ḻarrakitj and its contents would return to mother earth.

The ḻarrakitj has often been referred to as the mother’s womb. Once sedentary mission communities were established in Arnhem Land it became impractical to abandon permanent communities and outlawed to expose corpses on platforms. However the cosmology of the Yolŋu and the essence of ritual mortuary ceremony remains just as important. Ḻarrakitj continue to be produced as the equivalent of headstones or to contain the personal effects of a deceased (which might be dangerous unless removed from the living because of the emanations imbued by contact with the deceased). A further role for this cultural form is as a fine art object and an instructional tool for younger generations. Artworks of this nature have multiple layers of metaphor and meaning which give lessons about the connections between an individual and specific pieces of country (both land and sea), as well as the connections between various clans but also explaining the forces that act upon and within the environment and the mechanics of a spirit’s path through existence. The knowledge referred to by this imagery deepens in complexity and secrecy as a person progresses through a life long learning process.

~ text provided by Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre

Homeland: Yilpara
Clan: Djambarrpuyŋu

Munhala Dhamarrandji depicts the Djambarrpuyŋu clan design of Batjimurruŋu.

This design carries the miny’tji of Batjimurruŋu a shellfish of the mangroves area which climbs the aerial roots of the mangroves as the tide comes in. It is sung by the Djambarrpuyngu clan with the Guyula / Dhamarrandji surnames and relates to the Buckingham Bay area of Gurula Dhulmuwandany. It is a design learnt by the artist via her mother’s first husband and is her classificatory sister clan.

This place and design, songs and the shellfish itself are related to the songlines of the Djaŋ’kawu sisters of the Dhuwa moiety.

Batjimurruŋu is Cassidula angulifera or the Angular Ear Shell. The synonyms are miniminipi and mitjalaŋaniŋ.

Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre is the Indigenous community controlled art centre of Northeast Arnhem Land. Located in Yirrkala, a small Aboriginal community on the northeastern tip of the Top End of the Northern Territory, approximately 700km east of Darwin. The primarily Yolŋu (Aboriginal) staff of around twenty services Yirrkala and the approximately twenty-five homeland centres in the radius of 200km.

In the 1960’s, Narritjin Maymuru set up his own beachfront gallery from which he sold art that now graces many major museums and private collections. He is counted among the art centre’s main inspirations and founders, and his picture hangs in the museum. His vision of Yolŋu-owned business to sell Yolŋu art that started with a shelter on a beach has now grown into a thriving business that exhibits and sells globally.

Today Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre consists of two divisions; the Yirrkala Art Centre which represents Yolŋu artists exhibiting and selling contemporary art and The Mulka Project which acts as a digital production studio and archiving centre incorporating the museum.

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