Raymond Bulambula and the Gapu Murnuk story

Raymond Bulambula is a Mandjikay, Wobulkarra man whose ancestral country includes Barringu and Langarra (Howard Island, south of Elcho Island).

In this Gamanungku (painting / design) Bulambula depicts Gapu Murnuk in a style that belongs to Barringu. Bulambula can paint Gapu Murnuk in two different styles, one belonging to Barringu and the other to Langarra, both entrusted to him by his father. 

Gapu Murnuk is where the Gapu Raping (fresh water) and Gapu Gamurray (saltwater) mix together. Bulambula describes this as the “fresh water coming through from long way (another country) and we meet him half way.” Bulambula identifies as a salt water person.

There is a big story for Gapu Murnuk, it is expressed in the Songlines, Clan designs, ancestral stories and Bungul (ceremonial song and dance) of numerous Yolngu Clans.

Gupu Murnuk is celebrated as a place of wealth and abundance – a place with ‘dharruwa ngata’ (lots of food including fish and crocodile eggs). It is also represented in ceremonies as a metaphor for the coming together of different elements including; Yirritja and Dhuwa (the two sides of the Yolngu moiety), husband and wife, the relationship between mother and son.

Bulambula says that this Gamanungku is painted on the chests of men during Ngarra (cleansing) and Dhapi (making man) ceremonies. He adds that the way it is depicted here is for public viewing and that when painted for private use, the Gamanungku is painted in a different way.

Bulambula says, “This Gamanungku is from my ancestors from a long time ago and still we are painting today.”