The work for The Quarter is based on Wanambi’s design for a lamp in the form a miniature Larrakitj (memorial pole) depicting the Milngiyawuy (Milky Way) story. This is the Manggalili clan version of the story through Jamie’s mother, Naminapu. Ancestral beings, the Guwak men surrendered themselves to the stars from the Milngiya River and can be seen as the voids within the Milky Way today.
The below passage is a detailed account of this story courtesy of the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre.
It was in the Wangarr (ancestral times) when the Guwak men, Munuminya and Yikawanga, sitting under the shade of the sacred Marawili tree, instructed the ancestral koel cuckoo Guwak to lead the Manggalili people to this new place they had established for them at Djarrakpi. Having seen the people settled in their new homeland they announced to the Manggalili their farewell, that they, the Guwak men were to travel out to sea, to a place in the sky and that they would become stars which would shine out of the night sky.
So a canoe and paddles were made and their journey began by paddling down the Milngiya River which flows into the Blue Mud Bay near Djarrakpi. In the bay, at a place of significance, strong winds developed and capsized the canoe – the men drowned.
The Milngiya River is the terrestrial version of the Milky Way.
Some tried to rescue them. A special log, Milkamirri or Bandumul, containing mangrove worms offered itself as assistance. Nguykal the ancestral kingfish and the rock cod they had caught for their journey offered assistance, as did Dhäla the sea creature. It was to no avail however as the men had destined themselves as offerings to the night sky where they and subsequent Manggalili souls are seen today in the Milky Way. These Manggalili souls attain their celestial position by means of possum fur string, Burrkun, that connects Djarrakpi at the site of the Marawili tree to night sky. Miliyawuy or Milngiya as the Milky Way is also looked upon as the nesting place for the ancestral crocodiles Yingalpiya.
Naminapu Maymuru-White b. 1952 assisted by Jamie Wanambi b. 1977
Milngiyawuy (Milky Way Dreaming), 2016
carved and painted wood, lighting
Jamie Wanambi is an emerging artist (Dhuwa moiety, Marrakulu clan) who works through Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre at Yirrkala, north-east Arnhem Land. His work has largely been facilitated through his mother, well-known artist Naminapu Maymuru-White (Yirritja moiety, Manggalili clan. Belang group). Naminapu is an extremely versatile artist who works in various mediums including painting, carving, screenprinting, weaving, linocut and batik. She was first taught by her father, Nånyin Maymuru, and her uncle Narritjin Maymuru, and is one of the first Yolngu women to learn to paint miny’tj (sacred clan designs). Naminapu has exhibited since 1984 and her work is held in many public and private collections including the National Gallery of Australia, Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, Holmes à Court Collection, and the Kerry Stokes Collection.