This exhibition is brought to you by Outstation, in collaboration with the following art centres:
- Barayuwa Mununggurr
- Barayuwa Munuŋgurr
Yolŋu Law captures the essence of the unseen forces which govern our world in song, poetry, dance and art. From the 1970s until his death in 2001 the high priest of Yolŋu law was a man known as the Djirrikay. This honoured title, meaning the master of the ceremonies, was held by Ḏula Ŋurruwuthun. He and his brother Gambali,from the numerically small Munyuku clan, were revered for their sacred knowledge. They were accepted by all clans as the ultimate arbiters in disputes as to ceremonial protocol.
The vigour of his dancing and singing and his rhetorical and choreographic power made his leadership irresistible. When he died suddenly it was the end of an era. The Reverend Djiyinini Gondarra OAM said at the time “its as if the very air has changed”.
The relationship between a person and their mother clan is described as Yothu Yindi. This translates as the child/the universal mother. Each person belongs to one of the two distinct halves of the world. Yirritja and Dhuwa. In all cases that person’s mpther will be from the opposite moiety to their own. It is a key scaffold of the person’s identity and between a man and his mother’s brother it invests authority. That child of the opposite moiety can become a key office holder in his mother clan’s ceremonial life.
To truly understand the foundation of Barayuwa’s art means grasping the significance of the fact that his mum’s brother was this same Djirrikay- Mr. Ḏula Ŋurruwuthun. This man stood as his male mother. The art that Barayuwa makes is completely contained within the Law of his mother- the Munyuku clan.
Barayuwa will never make public claim to his connection to such a powerful figure and it is therefore not often thought about. But the authority, confidence and energy of his practice and his bravery in continually embracing fresh approaches is a clue to the influence of that heritage.
Very much like the hidden whale bones within the waters of Yarrinya it is the bedrock of his gift.