Jump to content
Where our stories come alive
No related object types for the search.
You need permission to reuse this image. Photography, supply and licensing fees may apply.
Räkay (Yolngu name)
Eleocharis dulcis (Latin name)
'water chestnut' (common name)
This plant belongs to the Dhuwa moiety
Cultural information about this plant:
When you go to a billabong where there is räkay, you can smell it from afar; you can smell the smell known as läka, and that smell brings tears to my eyes. To most old people that smell takes them back to the past and the future and the present. It is the smell of the reeds, of the räkay that has been trodden down by the geese and the ducks walking on it - so the feet of the geese break and bend the reeds and that smell mixes with the billabong, with the water, and you can smell it from a long way away. And you can see it in my painting. Some of the stems are standing up and some have been pushed flat.
It is a beautiful food and it can be eaten all year around. The food is colourful. The chestnuts which are in the water - some are orange, some are black, some are red, some are white, and some are yellow, all these colours. And every plant, every food - we sing it, we dance it. Young people should learn these manikay (sacred songs) because I feel if they don't they will be forgotten like some of the foods in this book have been forgotten. The name is there, but the taste and the smell is gone. Gone forever, even the taste and smell, because the young don't practise it. My mother, Djaparri, was taken by a policeman on Wangurryarrikpa (Woodah Island), in a place called Ningarri, while she was collecting räkay with a group of women. They were hunting for räkay when they were ambushed by police and everyone was handcuffed, including my mother. On her shoulders sat Bulnyinda, my other sister. My father, Dhäkiyarr, speared and killed the policeman and was taken away, never to return.
(Written by Mulkun Wirrpanda, 2016)
Boranitcal information about this plant:
- a tall spike rush to 1.5 metres in height; perennial, with a stout, woody rhizome
- aquatic, erect annual or perennial stems to 1 metre in height, from perennial globular brown-skin tubers up to 12 millimetres in diameter
- smooth stems, 3?5 millimetres in width, with transverse green septae; flower and seed head on apex of stems
- grows in dense swards in seasonally inundated wetlands and on floodplains, in water up to 2 metres deep; common and
widespread across northern Australia, mainly in near coastal areas.
A botanical painting in natural pigments and ochres on eucalyptus stringy bark, depicting the native plant species Rakay. The painting features six horizontal sections with each section having many vertical green lines outlined in white. Crosshatching in white, black, peach, red-brown, green and yellow ochre-toned colours form the background. There are green circles outlined in white in four of the sections. On the reverse of the bark, the number '4341W' is handwritten in black ink, and there is a 'BUKU-LARRNGAY MULKA' adhesive label attached, including the artist's name and other details.
The collection consists of nine larrakitj, or painted hollow logs, and 113 bark paintings painted between 2011 and 2014 by Mulkun Wirrpanda, a senior female Yolngu artist at Yirrkala in north east Arnhem Land. These works are a product of Wirrpanda's interest in documenting the ecology of her country following her participation in a joint project with non-Indigeous artists, printmakers and academics, charting the country and yam supply at Blue Mud Bay.
The works in this collection provide a unique visual record of Yolngu knowledge of plants and food-bearing and medicinal species. Wirrpanda depicts aspects of the plants' life cycle across numerous works, including the gestational period through to fruiting and the interconnections between the food source and the extensive freshwater flood plains and rivers, beaches, sandhills, salt flats and estuaries in her Yolngu country.
W 856mm x H 1590mm x D 50mm