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1985.0259.0391 is one of 28 bark paintings and 3 artefacts that appear on Davidson's collection list under the heading 'Yirritja Ceremonies - Mangalili Matha - Bilin Mala'. The following explanation comprises two parts: a general account that precedes the individual descriptions of works and the description for 1985.0259.0391.
Yirritja Ceremonies - Mangalili Matha - Bilin Mala
Narritjin is 'keeper' of the Opossum Tree story. His brother Nanyin (deceased) could only paint the story with Narritjin's permission. It is one of the oldest stories in Arnhem Land.
In 'the time before Morning' the night bird Guwark became lonely and flew along the coast looking for his friend ?Murango', the opossum, to talk to. During the day he found him at several places but Murango would not talk to him, because it was daylight. Ever since the night bird calls only at night as he knows this is the only time Murango will answer him.
Eventually, Guwark reached the totemic tree at Djerkakoi. He was worn out and darkness had fallen so he rested in the top of the tree. While he was resting he heard Murango moving about inside the tree so he called to him and this time because it was night time Murango came up the tree trunk to join him, and they sat talking and looking at the crab Gunyan, playing on the beach below the cliff on which the Opossum tree stands.
Portions only of this story are sometimes painted, rarely is the full story told on the one bark. Sometimes, only Gunyan the crab is painted. He is the white crab that digs a burrow just below high water mark. The burrow is sometimes the central feature of the design which comes from the country known as Garritjpi, and the colours and pattern used in it were created in 'the time before Morning' by the men Mundurrwutthun and Ngurruguyamirri. Extensive use is made of the patterns developed from the marks on the sand made by the crab's legs as he is walking or digging his burrow. This pattern is painted on the bodies of the dancers performing any ceremonies belonging to the Opossum Tree story (Collection list for Davidson collection, p. 33).
Part of the story of Bama Bama the spirit man. In the centre is the yellow fresh water snake, mundugul, who swallowed the corpse of a girl killed by Bama Bama. The rats from Manguldji are shown, who travelled through the country making trouble with their talk (Collection list for Davidson collection, p. 34).
A bark painting worked in ochres and on wooden restrainers. It depicts a central yellow freshwater snake. On either side of this there are two vertical columns of black, brown and yellow rats. There is a horizontal band of yellow and white stripes with yellow circles across the centre of the painting. The painting has yellow borders at either end.
W 628mm x H 1118mm x D 28mm
Verified by D Kaus 29/10/2012