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Jimmy Djelminy / Creatures of the Arafura Swamp (1A)

105cm x 75cm Ochres on Arches Paper, 1997

SKU: A2419


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Born: 14.12.1946
Died: 21.6.2003
Region: Central Arnhem Land
Community: Ramingining
Language Bloc: Yolngu
Language: Ganalbingu
Local Group (clan): Gurrumba Gurrumba
Social Affiliations: Yirritja moiety, Bulany subsection.

Medium/ Form: Bark painting, ochres on bark, ochres on arches rives paper, carved and painted
hollow log coffin. Dupun, carving.
Family: Wives Annette Gorkarr, Judy Djinmaliya, Sister Dorothy Djukulul (Dec’d), brothers
George Milpurrurru (Dec’d), Charlie Djurritjini

Artbank, Sydney. Milingimbi Collection, MECA, Milingimbi Educational and Cultural Association. Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin. Museum of Contemporary Art, Arnott’s Collection, Sydney. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

1982, Aboriginal Art at the Top, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
1990, Spirit in Land, Bark Paintings from Arnhem Land, National Gallery of Victoria
1994, Power of the Land, Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria
2000, Australian Heritage Commission’s 5th National Indigenous Art Award

Select Bibliography:
Altman, J., and Cook, P., 1982, Aboriginal Art at the Top, exhib. cat., Maningrida Literature Production Centre, Maningrida.
Ryan, J., 1990, Spirit in Land, exhib. cat., National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

In the Dreamtime magpie geese lived in a mystical place and from there they flew to various places throughout central Arnhem Land, carrying with them a long length of feathered string, marawurr, with which to mark out territories for Aboriginal clan groups. This string represented waterlily roots, lcaliwurr, synonymous with the Evening Star. When the magpie geese came to the Arafura Swamp, they cut off a piece of the string and measured out a large portion of land (200 square miles) including the swamp, for the Ganalbingu tribe.

At the same time Ancestral Beings were walking through the area giving law, language and ceremony to the people living there. When they came to the Arafura Swamp, they spent a long time establishing an underground network of waterways in which live the spiritual forces which sustain life.

In the Dreamtime these ancestors had the power to transform themselves into animals and various creatures, or even into rocks and other natural phenomena, in order to avoid injury or if they realised that the time had come to die. By this means the spirits of Ancestral Beings continued to live on in other creatures or objects.

The swamp is home to large flocks of magpie geese and other water birds, freshwater plants, long neck turtles, crocodiles, water snakes, insects, stiff reeds and palms, (corypha elata). When the monsoonal rains are called up by Karritjar, the Rainbow Serpent, frogs and turtles living in the swamp sing with the totemic snakes about the coming rains. Fish, spiders (whose webs catch the souls of dead people), flying foxes, cormorants, stingrays, tortoises and other creatures all seek refuge in the swamp under protective foliage.

In this painting, Jimmy has depicted a number of swamp birds amongst the water lilies. Crosshatching represents the water.

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