Harry Wirrimbitj

Milka ga latjin (mangrove worms) – Wangurri body paint design (#36-20)

Ochre on bark, 62 x 21 cm

Wirrimbitj has painted one of his Wangurri body paint designs. This design is painted onto the chests of young boys during Dhapi (men’s initiation) ceremony. Each element of the design resents totems that belong to Wangurri people, including, milka ga latjin (two types of edible mollusc that live in the wood of mangrove trees). 

The motif at the very top of this piece depicts a horizontal piece of giyabara (mangrove wood) with milka living inside. The solid areas of red, white and yellow are the milka inside the darpa (wood). The rarrk between the milka is the salt water that runs out of darpa when its held up and shaken to release milka. The white triangles at each end represent the teeth of the milka. The yellow triangular shape beneath the darpa is a cloud. Beneath the cloud, the vertical solid areas of red, black, yellow and white are the latjin (mangrove worms) and the rarrk areas are again the saltwater that runs through the darpa

Wirrimbitj explains that at his Wangurri Manjikay country of Dhalinbuy the milka ga latjin are are large, sweet and in abundance. ‘The darpa with milka ga latjin washes up on the sand – we don’t have to cut it with an axe like at other places. We can pick it up and buma (hit) it with another piece of darpa and the milka ga latjin will fall out. When we rub the darpa with mud and leave it at the river mouth maypal (shell fish) come to its surface).’ 


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Milingimbi Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation

The Milingimbi Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation is a community owned Art Centre that maintains an important position in the national art and cultural arena. Milingimbi Art and Culture has a long history of producing works steeped in active cultural practice such as barks, ceremonial poles, carvings and weavings. Works from Milingimbi are integral to important collections in many National and International institutions.


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