• 10. Baratjala, 2023 (30/40)
  • 10. Baratjala, 2023 (30/40)
  • 10. Baratjala, 2023 (30/40)

Mrs N. Marawili (dec)

10. Baratjala, 2023 (30/40)

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Baratjala is a Madarrpa clan estate adjacent to Cape Shield where the artist camped with her father and his many wives as a young girl. It is of the essence of Madarrpa but does not hold the high order sites that Yathikpa does. The artist lived nomadically as part of a clan group with a flotilla of canoes between Groote Eyelandt and the mainland.

Her father’s name was Mundukul (Lightning Snake) and this is also the name of the serpent (also known as Water Python, Burrut’tji or Liasis Fuscus), which lives deep beneath the sea here. These are cyclonic, crocodile infested waters with huge tides and ripping currents and she is part of them.

This print shows the rocks set in deep water between the electric ‘curse’ that the snake spits into the sky in the form of lightning, and the spray of the sea trying to shift the immovable rock foundation of the Madarrpa. Also depicted are duŋgurŋaniny, barnacles that grow on the rock. Yurr’yunna is the word used to describe the rough waves overtopping the rock and the spray flying into the sky.

It is said that the serpents ‘spit’ lightning- ‘guykthun’. The extended meaning of ‘guykthun' though includes “make something sacred or taboo through saying magic words’. In our language we ‘swear’ an ‘oath’ which sanctifies the speech but both words can also mean to utter profanities. We also understand that ‘curse’ can mean bad language but also a spell.

The Top End has one of the world’s greatest number of lightning strikes at this time of year. These works show the sanctifying words being spat across the sky in lightning form. The lightning’s sacred power hits the seaspray rising from where it has just smashed into the rock. The energies captured in this painting are almost a match for those in the real life of a Top End Wet Season. This journey from the sacred to the descriptive shifts in these works.

She has reduced the Law to its elements unclothed in sacred design. Her identity cannot be separated from her art and so although she disavows any sacred intent the echo of miny’tji persists.

~ text provided by Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre

    • Screenprint on paper
    • Dimensions: 76.2 x 43.2cm
    • Cat No. 4104-23-30/40


  • Homeland: Bäniyala
  • Clan: Madarrpa, Yithuwa group
  • Moiety: Yirritja

Mrs N. Marawili (dec) is the daughter of the Maḏarrpa warrior Mundukuḻ (lightning snake) and a Gälpu woman Buḻuŋguwuy. She was a wife of Djapu statesman Djutjadjutja Munuŋgurr (deceased) who won best bark painting at the National Aboriginal Art Awards 1997, in which she ably assisted.

She was the mother of four sons before birthing her two daughters, Marrnyula and Rerrkirrwaŋa (both artists – Rerrkirrwaŋa won best bark in Telstra 2009). She is a highly respected senior in her community, knowledgeable in two educational systems and practitioner in the bush and also institutions. She is a prolific producer of art, her work includes bark paintings, ḻarrakitj, carvings, and limited edition prints. Many of the works attributed to her husband Djutadjuta were crosshatched herself as part of teaching her family the required skills. She most often paints her husband’s Djapu clan designs, the Gälpu clan designs of her mother, or that of her own clan the Maḏarrpa.


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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