Maḏukan Guku (Stringybark Honey) – Matthew Djipurrtjun (Gamaḻaŋga design with lizards and bush cockroach)


38 x 19 / PAINTING – Ochre on Bark

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This traditional clan design belongs to the artist’s mother clan, the Gamaḻaŋga, for which he is djuŋgaya (ritual custodian). This role gives him the right and responsibility to paint this design.

The central rectangular feature is a stringybark tree or maḏukan, with a beehive inside, represented by the dots at its top and bottom. This tree was cut down by the mokuy Wodhal in his search for Dhuwa honey. Gunydjuḻu (knob-tailed gecko), Ḻapakarra (small lizard species) and Boḏuk (bush cockroach) run in and out of the fallen hollow log. The yellow vines with the bulbous roots are riny’tjaŋu, (wild carrot), that grow around it.

The artist’s mothers Rita Guḻarrbaŋga and Sandra Bambatŋu tell the following story of Ḻapakarra and Boḏuk. Here it is in their language Yan-nhaŋu, with the translation below in English:

Nhaŋu dhaŋuny Ḻapakarra ga Boḏuk. Nyenanha bala bayku Gaḻkubirri, wanha nhani waŋanha nhan’ku Ḻapakarra Boḏukku, “Nhaŋu gamunuŋgu, nhunu gurrku biḏi’yun ŋarranha”. Ga nhani Boḏuk waŋanha binamunu, “Nhunu gurrku ŋarranha biḏi’yunba.” Wanha nhani milanha gamunuŋgu ga biḏi’yanaba ḏiltji Ḻapakarranha. Ga dhawar’yana gamunuŋgu, wanha nhani nhäma ganitjirri ŋorrana mananha. Wanha nhani waŋanha nhan’ku Boḏukku, “Ma’, Boḏuk nhunu gurrku ŋorra dhula, ŋarra gurrku biḏi’yunba nhununha.” Wanha nhani milanha mul’muŋu gamunuŋgu, wanha nhani ga walip miku milanha, wanha nhani nhänhaba. “Rulka! Nhä mini nhaŋu, miriŋu Lapakarra? Ŋarra gurrku nhaŋu milama ganitjirri wanha ŋarra gurrku waḻwaḻyunba!” Wanha nhani milanha ganitjirri ga nhani gabathana. Milanha ḻapakarrayu, wanha nhani gabathanaba.

This story is about Lizard and Bush Cockroach. They were living at Gaḻkubirri (Banyan Island) and Lizard said to Bush Cockroach, “How about you paint me with this ochre?” And Bush Cockroach said the same way to Lizard, “You can paint me.” So he got some paint and painted Lizard’s back. And then he finished painting. He saw there was some water there. And he said to Bush Cockroach, “Ok Bush Cockroach, you lie down here, I’ll paint you.” And he got black paint, and he got one red, and then he had a look. “No! What are you, a horrible Lizard? I’m going to get that water and piss in it!” So he got some water and hid it. Lizard got some (water), and hid it.

Maḏukan is also the name for the Gamaḻaŋga mortuary pole, in which the bones of their deceased are interred.

“This is just a short story,” says Djipurrtjun, “the big story is not for here”.



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SKU: 281-232023 Category: Tag: