This unique work, painted on the split stump from the Gaḏayka tree (Darwin Stringybark), was commissioned by the artists mother, Annette Gamalaŋga. Annette explains that this design has been ‘lying asleep’ for many years since being last painted by her husband, the artist’s father. She recognised that the time has come for her son to ‘wake this painting up’.
‘This is my story, but his hand. I asked him to paint this for me because he is Djuŋgaya (caretaker). We are very proud of him.’
The work shows the Gamalaŋga clan Wurrdjara, or Livistona Palm (Sand Palm). While this design is considered ‘outside’, or unrestricted, it is associated with a much larger ‘inside’, or secret story that connects Gamalaŋga clan with the Birritjama Ḻiyagalawumirr clan. This painting represents Garuma, a place on the mainland near Banyan Island that Gamalaŋga share with neighbouring Birritjama. From here the Wurrdjara song travels to Gaṯaṯa, and then on to Mirranmina, a very powerful place famed in Yolŋu lore.
The central green triangular figure is the crown of the palm in bloom, with the green cone-like wurrki’ (flowers) protruding with white ‘petals’. The small black figures are the poisionous dhawurrmonuk, or dhawuḏumunun, caterpillars that feed on the nectar of the flowers. The rarrk cross-hatching shows the edible core of Wurrdjara while the background black and yellow shapes are the palm leaves of Wurrdjara.