• 20. Darraŋgi, 2023 (8/30)
  • 20. Darraŋgi, 2023 (8/30)
  • 20. Darraŋgi, 2023 (8/30)

Gunybi Ganambarr

20. Darraŋgi, 2023 (8/30)

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This work identifies the reservoirs of the Ŋaymil/Datiwuy clan.

Ŋalkan is an area on Ŋaymil land and sea between the Gurrumuru and Cato Rivers that run into the Arnhem Bay. Within this area is another watercourse that leads up into a sacred area of a freshwater spring or Milngurr with special qualities called Balawurru. Dhangultji or Brolga are dancing here. Here Djanda the sacred goanna also swim in the lagoon created by the spring, their actions as they swim causing rippling patterns to be made on the surface that is covered by the totemic water weed Ḏarra. Similarly the force of the water surging from under the ground ripples the surface.

Ḻurr'yun is a Yolŋu word for the rippling flow of water. This plant forms floating forests in only a few very sacred locations. It is a broad leaf emergent plant that sits within the water and flowers in September with a vibrant yellow flower mass.

Dhangultji or Guḏurrku (Brolga) inhabit the adjacent floodplains in huge numbers during the late Dry. They drink from subterranean springs which emerge in the vast flat plains. A safe place to rest, mate and nest. In their avian form they are a manifestation of the Djaŋ’kawu Sisters’ party which travel throughout the Eastern top end, shape shifting and giving birth to the various clans of the Dhuwa moiety. In this case the Ŋaymil.

Others inhabit these waters: Warrukay or Murrukula the Barracuda, the power totem for the Ŋaymil. It spends most of its time in the salt waters. At certain times Warrukay will make its way up to Balawurru bringing the ‘contamination’ of muddied water with it. This has connotations of fertility. It is a place of fertility. Souls of Ŋaymil are both delivered to and from this point between worlds real and spiritual. As the sacred songs used in mortuary are cyclic, narrating the Ancestral Events of the original Creator Beings, so is the journey of the Yolŋu soul. This place is also shared with Dhudi Djapu clan.

    • Woodblock on Somerset paper
    • Dimensions: 48.2 x 32cm artwork on 76.1 x 32.2cm paper
    • Cat No. 3481-23-8/30

  • Homeland: Yaŋunbi
  • Clan: Ŋaymil
  • Moiety: Dhuwa

Gunybi has mainly lived and worked as an artist at Gaṉgaṉ, sometimes based at Dhuruputjpi or Yilpara. His mother Mäpuŋu Gumana originates from here but is now deceased. He came to notice as a ceremonial yiḏaki (didjeridu) player sought after by elders to accompany their sacred song. He accompanied the Yolŋu delegations to the opening of the National Museum in Canberra 2001 and the ḻarrakitj installation at the Sydney Opera House 2002, and played at the opening of Djambawa Marawili’s exhibition in the 2006 Sydney Biennale.

Under the tutelage of artists like Gawirrin Gumana and Yumutjin Wunuŋmurra from his mother’s Dhaḻwaŋu clan whilst living on their country he has now assumed ceremonial authority. He first came to the notice of the Buku-Larrŋgay staff as an artist with a carved and painted Ironwood sculpture of a Wurraṉ or cormorant (a totemic species of his mother clan) in 2002. The wood’s natural shape suggested itself to him and he commenced to reveal the bird within. He then added pigment to achieve the colouring but both, sculpting Ironwood for sale (rather than ceremony), and painting Ironwood are new actions in North East Arnhem land public art. This began a consistent theme of Gunybi following his own inclinations in expressing his vision. He has combined that with a startling innovative flair to produce groundbreaking sacred art that is at once novel and still entirely consistent with Yolŋu maḏayin (law).


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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