The Sacred Waterhole Dimirr Wariman by Johnny BulunbulunThe Sacred Waterhole Dimirr Wariman by Johnny Bulunbulun
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The Sacred Waterhole Dimirr Wariman

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Johnny Bulunbulun is a senior member of the Ganalbingu group and is one of the most important singers and ceremonial men in north-central Arnhem Land. His clan lands lie in the Arafura Swamp area, although he lives with the Burarra people at Wurdeja. The screenprint represents the sacred waterhole Dimirr Warlman which is located in the Arafura Swamp region. The Ganalbingu recognise a 'top' group and area of the Arafura (i.e. inland) and a 'bottom', seaward, group and area. Dimirr Wariman belongs with the bottom group. The figures depicted are all mythologically associated with this waterhole. Gumang, the magpie goose (Anseranus semipalmata), is shown with her nest (yali) and eggs (mapu). The long-necked freshwater turtle (Chelodina oblonga) is called guwaynang, and the snake is a 'quiet one', a water python (probably Liasis Fuscus), called gartjal. These creatures regularly feature in the Ganalbingu diet. Two types of water lily (Nympaea sp.) are shown. The fat one is gardatji, which is old and poisonous; the smaller one is edible and is known as yariman. The background of dots represents a species of sharp cutting grass called gunbulorra. Each of these figures also had a range of narrative and ceremonial functions. Gartjal the snake is said to have travelled from Dimirr Wariman to Gartji waterhole where he made himself into a tree. The yali and mapu design had an important meaning for the Ganalbingu and is associated with the resting place for the souls of the dead. Gardatji is reproduced as a tasselled staff, or message stick which announces impending mortuary ceremonies for decesded members of the Gurrmbagurrmba clan. Guwaynang and Gumang icons are made from paperbark and also feature in mortuary ceremonies, as well as a didjeridu player who mimics the honking of gumang as it flies over the waterhole. Guwaynang, especially, is an important creature in Ganalbingu cosmology and is Bulunbulun's personal totem. 'He is the most important one because it was him that made my country and my people'. Before Guwaynang there was nothing. Bulunbulun draws an anology between the Guwaynang story and the story of the Djankawu sisters which is more widely known. Guwaynange came from the east, from a place called Gunbaranga, and travelling westwards, it passed through many family estates. As it did so, its son lightly tapped it on the back with a stick, each time it was touched, Guwaynang named the family and the place. All the other creatures came later and followed in the tracks of the turtle. While Guwaynang is commonly referred to in the masculine singular, it also adopts the form of two spirit sisters called Marduwi and Ngurrubaral. These sisters came to Dimirr Warlman and then travelled on to Gartji waterhole where there were leeches. One sister said to the other 'Hey you got leech', and they seperated. The sister with the leech sucking on her leg went on to the Blyth River, but by the time she got there she was very weak, so she stopped, went into the ground and became the site Garnardi. She also metamorphosed into the Marpi baparru (famliy group) of the Djinang language group. The other sister made her way to Ji-malawa where she also went into the ground and became Ngorrijongga baparru of Burarra language group.

Artwork Information

Location Australia
Region Australia
Artist Johnny Bulunbulun
NWC Nation N/A
Date Created 1998
Dimensions 44.125" X 31.5"
Materials & Edition serigraph edition 90

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