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Wundan (Yolngu name)
Vitex glabrata (Latin name)
'black plum' (common name)
This plant belongs to the Dhuwa moiety
The painting is also called 'Dead tree' or 'Dry tree' because the termite mound (gundirr) that has formed around the base of the tree has killed it.
Cultural information about the plant :
The kids love it when I start to tell them the story of the Warang brothers.
There was a big wundan tree and the Yolngu were living nearby. The mother said to her two sons: 'I am tired of the seafood we have been eating. I want you to get me some warrakan (protein from land animals)'. The older brother said, 'I know where there is a big wundan tree nearby. We went there with my uncle. We saw lots of emu footprints. I'll take my little brother'. They had spears and clay. They crossed the river and then put the clay on to disguise themselves. They walked a long way until finally they came to the tree. It was a huge tree completely covered in the delicious fruit. Every branch was heavy with amazing amounts of wundan fruit. They went up to the tree and fruit was lying on the ground everywhere, and there were fresh emu footprints everywhere. After eating some of the fruit, Big Brother said, 'You climb up first and I'll come up after you'. Little Brother asked, 'What will happen?' Big Brother said that the fresh tracks and fruit meant that the emus would soon be here. 'When the emus come, we will only kill one to take home to mum. I will throw the first spear and then you throw the second into the same emu.' 'OK', Big Brother said, 'here they come'. 'Where?' 'See the long grass? There they are!' Speargrass swaying. 'That's them. Quiet!' The two brothers saw the foot of an emu emerge from the grass. And then the whole body emerged. Little Brother tried to scream, but Big Brother slammed his hand over his mouth. They saw the foot of an animal but the body of a human.
All the emus came out in a line. Walking in one by one and all the same. Emu legs and human bodies. They were collecting the wundan. The little boy was unable to stop a teardrop falling onto the shoulder of one of the animals, who felt it and touched it to his lips to taste it. He knew the taste. Tears. Playing a game with his fellows, he said: 'Gudi ngarra nhängaya gudi?' ('Guess what I can see?') They tried 'Echidna?' 'No.' 'Red kangaroo?' 'No.' 'Snake?' 'No.' 'Do you give up?' 'Yes.' 'Humans!'
They all looked up and saw the terrified youngsters. The emu monsters sprang into action to attack them. Having hardly ever had humans to eat, they were desperate to get to them. All the animals were leaping up and falling over each other as they clambered up the tree to get to the boys. Big Brother speared one to kill it and it fell, but then the others redoubled their efforts. As he only had one more spear, he realised that they would never kill all of them. He yelled to his little brother: 'Jump!' 'We can't!' 'Just do it! Jump!'
As soon as they hit the ground they transformed into sugar gliders and rose up from the ground. From tree to tree they flew, still being chased, until they got home. After hearing the story, everyone got their spears and went to the wundan tree and they chopped it down. That's why it is that when the fruit appears all the leaves drop off. So that the emu people don't come again.
(Written by Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs, 2017)
Botanical information about this plant:
- a large spreading deciduous tree to 25 metres in height
- glossy green leaves with three leaflets, each of which is ovate, to 9 centimetres in length
- pink and white flowers, in an inflorescence, to 18 centimetres in length
- fruit in the form of a globular berry to 10 millimetres in diameter; dark purple when ripe, and tastes very sweet
- grows in monsoon vine forests and some open woodlands and forests; widespread and common across northern Australia.
A botanical painting in natural pigments and ochres on eucalyptus stringy bark, depicting the native plant species Wundan. The painting features a plant in red ochre with a white outline. The plant has leaves and it's roots can be seen growing into the ground. There are two sections near the base of the trunk that have been painted white. On the reverse of the bark, the number '4583D' is handwritten in black ink, and there is a 'BUKU-LARRNGAY MULKA' adhesive label attached, including the artist's name and the hand written words 'Dry Tree' 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 150mm x H 600mm x D 40mm