Birrkuḏa Guku Galinyin (#100-20)

Painting, 90 x 43 cm, 2020

This piece represents the meeting of two cultural leaders, the artist’s father, Tom Djäwa, and Queen Elizabeth of England. This meeting occurred in 1954 in Toowoomba, Queensland. 

To depict this meeting the artist has combined his Guku Galanyin miny’tji (Gupapuyŋu clan wild honey bee body paint design), the Australian coat of arms and a Balanda (European) crown. 

The Balanda crown appears at the top of the bark, together with the coat of arms. The elongated triangular shapes beneath the coat of arms are Guyuwa or the protruding nose of the native bees’ hive. Dhamanydji also describes the Guyuwa motif as a crown for Yolŋu people. 

The central diamond pattern in the work is native beeswax or honeycomb. The rärrk (cross-hatching) on either side symbolises the flowing guku (honey), while the solid yellow block at the base of the work is the dhuḏi dharpa (tree stump), symbolic of the foundational knowledge held by Gupapuyŋu people. 

The Guku Galanyin design belongs Gupapuyŋu people of the Yirritja moiety. It is used for body painting in the Ŋärra men’s ceremony and Dhapi (‘making man’) ceremony. When the Ŋärra ceremony is finished, Yirritja participants dance to the salt water and are cleansed by people of the Dhuwa moiety who splash them, washing the body paint off.

Interested in this artwork but thinking about a commission? Email us to discuss the details.

Milingimbi Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation

The Milingimbi Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation is a community owned Art Centre that maintains an important position in the national art and cultural arena. Milingimbi Art and Culture has a long history of producing works steeped in active cultural practice such as barks, ceremonial poles, carvings and weavings. Works from Milingimbi are integral to important collections in many National and International institutions.


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