Garawan Wanambi

(Australia 1965 – )

Gängan, Arnhem region
Language group
Marrakulu, Arnhem region


Not on display
Further information

Garawan Wanambi is part of the strong artistic community at Gängan, to the south of Yirrkala, which is pushing the boundaries of Yolngu artistic practice. His precise geometry and complex layering of designs create a depth of field on an otherwise flattened surface and a mesmerising optical effect. In doing this, Wanambi explores the Yolngu concept of Buwayak ‒ simultaneously making elements both visible and invisible.

'Marrangu' 2015 shows Wanambi’s exploration of Marrangu clan designs. Embedded with the work is the form of a sacred object, connected to the mosquito. The mosquito is synonymous with aggression and also the release of tension that comes with the resolution of dispute. The background designs refer to a location in the mouth of the river at Raymangirr where freshwater springs bubble up beneath saltwater and reflect the different states of water from turbulent to calm.

Art centre documentation states:
This painted surface depicts country close to Raymangirr, on the coast of Arnhem Bay. It is a sacred and restricted area where freshwater is known to spring to the surface of the beach at the low tide region.

Garawan is a Marrakulu clansman and says that “Wayungga brought me up so I’m also adopted to the Marrangu clan”

The Marrakulu and Marrangu are closely related clans through madayin (sacred clan mythologies and law). Both tell of the felling of monumental trees by the honey ancestor Wuyal, the scouring out of a river course by the fallen log on its way to sea, deluge of honey, floods and other apocalyptic events.

For the Marrangu at a site close to coastal Raymangirr is the mouth of this river and places of non secular danger where freshwater fonts spring up into this tidal region. It has been said that if you go too close to this area you’ll become sick such is the malevolent power of this site. Måpan – Boils.

A site of the mosquito ancestors – they’ll waya mari (fight with spears into) the boil releasing the bloody muck. Then there is peace and calm after the storm, sun rays play on the surface of the water, another manifestation depicted within this work.

The mosquito is a symbol of aggression and the ancestral mosquitoes fight with spears as on an avenging expedition. The mosquito ancestors are associated with places of spiritual danger that cause boils. Fighting is a release of tension just as the bursting of a boil.

The design represents this place in the river mouth near Raymangirr, where freshwater springs bubble up beneath the saltwater. The design represents the different character of the waters moving from anger and turbulence to the calm of resolution, bathed in the warmth of the sun’s rays

© Buku Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre

Place of origin
Yirrkala, North-east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Cultural origin
Marrakulu/Arnhem region
etching on paper
40.0 x 40.0 cm
Signature & date

Signed l.r. corner, pencil "Garawan Wanambi". Not dated.

Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors' Group 2015
Accession number
© Garawan Wanambi, courtesy Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre