Screenprinted Tote Bag from Bula'Bula Arts Corporation, situated in Gurrwiliny - the remote Arafura Wetlands of NE Arnhem Land. Warrnyu Dhawu (Flying Fox Story) artwork by R Burnyila (dec). Thanks to Agency Projects for connecting Bula'Bula with The Social Studio and its wider community.
From fibre art to paintings depicting traditional stories, internationally renowned Bula’Bula Arts supports 150 artist members from Ramingining and its surrounding outstations. Artists receive 50-60% of the retail sales price of the artwork, with the remainder used for all operational costs. Our art centre is an iconic tropical elevation style building in the heart of the Ramingining community in Central Arnhem Land, 400 kilometres east of Darwin.
Local artists coined the name Bula’Bula meaning the voice/tongue of Gandayala (red kangaroo), Ramingining’s Creation Being. The name represents the message in the song cycle of the red kangaroo’s journey from the Roper River to the Ramingining region. The story is depicted in unique Ramingining-style—steeped in spiritual, ritual and historical narratives across a variety of mediums: print, painting, sculpture, fibre art, song, dance, as well as film and literature mediums.
Artwork Description: Back in the Creation time, Warrnyu (Flying Foxes) once lived like men, in the cave at the place called Kurrki Warrnyu Yirri Djaringal (they also lived in caves called Wadatilmurr & Gurngurmirrngu). Warrnyu lived in these caves for many years and then one day Djanyarr (The Dog) an ancestral being in the form of a man, came along. He was looking around for a place to live. Djanyarr heard the sound of a Flying Fox screaming. He went down to the cliff and he pushed the rock and the water came out at the Ganalbingu place called Gurrkawakarrmurr. He then went into the cave and into the sacred hole, frightened all the Flying Fox away. When he went into the hole he left his dilly bag in the tree and went out on the other side of the sacred cave and left the spear and the woomera. He sat there for a long time. The Dog made three streams and the water went inside the cave. Two of these streams are good drinking water. In the middle it is a sacred water. No-one drinks from the middle of the stream. Children, men, women, young boys or girls are not allowed to drink from the middle of the stream. If they drink the water from the middle of the stream they will get grey too early.
At Kurrki Warrnyu Yirri Ngilaya Djaringal, the Flying Fox made himself into a young man… that’s what Aboriginal people do today. They have ceremonies and dances to make the young boys into men. The songs are called Yirrarwu, Gulumu, Rruburra and Burryun. Dhapi (initiation ceremony) happens today because the Warrnyu (Flying Fox) people performed them a long time ago before the Yolgnu people. It was the Warrnyu people who first performed circumcision of the young boys to make them into men. It all happened at Kurrki Warrnyu Yirri Ngilaya Djaringal, this is how this place got its name.
Leaving behind the cave at Kurrki Warrnyu Yirri Djaringal, the Dog travelled west across the Arafura Swamp and came to Djalkulmurr (Mount Delight). From there he travelled north and came to Dunganda (a hill situated a few kilometres east of Ramingining). There he met a female Dog, then they both headed north and came to a place called Garanydjirrmurr where they spoke the Mildjingi language. From Garanydjirrmurr they changed their direction and went west through Guliny’barra, Burgumara and onto the plains. When they reached the plains they smelled something cooking, way up in the north – at Wessel Islands. The aroma they smelt was so enticing that they decided to go there. Lungurrma (the north-east wind) was carrying the smell. One Dog headed north again, but the other Dog decided not to go with him and went back the opposite way. The first Dog that went to Malwanatharra (Sandy Point) went into the sea following its nose to wherever the smell was coming from. It is believed that this Dog still lives in the sea…
Photographs on model by Timothy Hillier