This painting on split log depicts important totems belonging to the Gupapuyngu clan that are shared through a riŋgitj song cycle with other Yirritja clans. In this work it shows Manburi (catfish), the fish’s fine white Birrinymal (sacred Gupapuyŋu bones) and Burala (Darter). The long dotted lines that run along the painting depict the backbone of Manburi. These totems are used in mortuary rights. This means they are never painted on the body, only on djaḻumbu (hollow log coffins) and the Burala (ceremonial bullroarer), which represents the wing of the bird from which it takes its name.
When a Gupapuyŋu person dies their leaders gather Manburi Birrinymal (Catfish bones), Lumbalumba Birrinymal (Emu Bones) and Yolŋu birrinymal (the deceased person’s bones). The Birrinymal are painted with Gupapuyŋu designs using white ochre and native honey. These Birrinymal are then crushed and put inside a maḏayin bathi (sacred dilly bag). This bathi is then worn by senior men while they dance ceremony. Throughout the ceremony the men remove Birrinymal from the bathi and place them inside the djaḻumbu.
Spell-checked by SH Sept 2022