- Museum number
- Object: Djulkapuy (or Burrut'tji) - the Lightning Snake
Painting on bark in mid-brown, red-brown, black and cream paint, with wood supports at either end, lashed by string. Depicts the Lightning Snake, Djulkapuy (or Burrut'tji). Divided into six sections by horizontal lines which represent a fish trap. Fish (Gununbirrirr; balin, barramandi) and herons (Gomulu) are shown on alternate sides of the snake, in the upper five sections. These sections have a background of shapes, representing the leaves of the mangrove. The circle in the lower section represents Djulkapuy's hole (from which he emerges to make lightning and rain in the wet season).
- Production date
- 20thC (before 1986)
Length: 125 centimetres (appx)
Width: 49 centimetres (appx)
- Curator's comments
Buku Larrngay Arts label: 'Artist: BAKULAN/GAY MARAWILI Clan: MADARRPA Moiety: YIRRITJA Homeland centre: BANIYALA Cat no.: 4814
Description: BURRUT'TJI Ancestral lightening snake at BARRALTJA Creek in Madarrpa country. With clan design [drawing] representing leaves - GANYDJURR - heron.'
Page pasted to back of painting -
[typed text]: 'Language: Madarrpa. Clan: Yithuwa. Moiety: Yirritja
Burrut'tji (the Lightening Snake) and Baraltja Creek
For Yirritja moiety clans in Northeast Arnhem Land, the most important culture heroes or ancestor spirits are Barama and Lanydjung. They instigated the major ritual of the Yirritja moiety clans and established the law. In the Dreaming, they gave to Yirritja men sacred rituals, songs, dances and designs, and they made certain species and sites sacred to each clan.
At Baraltja, in Madarrpa country, Barama and Lanydjung made a fish trap by driving stakes across the creek to form a weir. At an opening in the centre of this they placed a partly submerged paperbark basket into which the fish jumped. The fish could then be collected from the basket. From that time, the Madarrpa have used this method for catching fish in creeks.
This creek at Baraltja is one of the places in which Burrut'tji, the Lightening Snake, lives. In creation times, Burrut'tji travelled northwards through the country of several Yirritja clans. Until his arrival, the country had no natural features. Burrut'tji made rain which filled the swamps and creeks and lagoons. Burrut'tji was made a totem for these clans by Lanydjung, and Burrut'tji called these clans his people. For this reason these Yirritja moiety clans are often referred to as 'Snake People'. To each of these groups, Burrut'tji gave a design for use in ceremony. Thus the Dhalwangu, the Manggalili, and the Munyuku own different aspects of the Lightening Snake Dreaming, and are linked in a 'friendship' relation by that shared Dreaming. The Madarrpa totemic design associated with this Dreaming represents fire and ash, and weeds in the water.
In the country of other clans, Burrut'tji live in certain special waterholes and creeks. In Munyuku country he lives at Maywundji, and in Manggalili country he lives at Milnguya. These snakes from different country flash lightening across to each other. They cause rain by spitting into the sky, and their sites, the sacred waterholes and creeks, can be dangerous, especially to menstruating women.
[handwritten text]: The circle is Burrut'tji's nest. The zigzags from his mouth represent his spit which forms clouds. The birds are heron. The fish live in the river. The background design represents leaves in the water & is a clan design for Madarrpa people. The horizontal divisions represent the fish trap.'
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number