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© Peter Minygululu/Licenced by Viscopy, 2017

Hollow Log Story

Date: 2000
1450 x 840 mm
Medium: Natural ochres on Eucalyptus tetradonta bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Peter Minygululu
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00026024
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting features the post-death ritual of placing the bones of the deceased inside a painted hollow log. The log represents the human body; the bones represent the soul. The log is carried or danced to its final resting site, fixed upright in the ground and left to decay. This painting also shows various totems including the double-headed python, barramundi and witchety grubs against a backdrop of crosshatched clan markings.

    SignificanceThis painting represents the post-death ritual ceremony and shows the bones of the deceased inside the hollow log.
    HistoryHollow Log Story narrative: 'A long long time ago our great great grandfather used to use this hollow log coffin for dead people's bones. They used to put the people's body in the bush bunk for five and a half weeks until the flesh strained out, then they started to collect the dead people's bones and put them in paperbark.

    They when ceremony started the people from every place gather together and have big ceremony and they paint the dead people's bones and put it into a hollow log coffin.

    The hollow log coffin name is Badurru meaning Milky Way and in that hollow log coffin there are all sorts of painting. There are python snake, crows, fishes, rainmaker bird, bush humpy hut called Melkiri. All those animals got meanings and history.

    All this traditional painting we do with all the Dreamtime story.

    This totem belongs to Peter Minygululu's mother.' - this story is written by Gladys Womati Malibirr, Peter Minygululu Djimalka's sister-in-law.

    Peter Minygululu has painted the story of his father's country - the land around Mirrngatja on the eastern side of the Arafura Swamp, eastern Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. The swamp is a large inland freshwater wetland and featured in the 2006 film Ten Canoes - the story of ten Yolngu men from the Ramingining community hunting for magpie geese eggs in the swamp, crossing it in their bark canoes.

    In traditional funerary rites, when a person in Arnhem Land dies the body is painted with totemic designs, sung over and mourned. On clan land the body is then buried or left to decompose until only bones remain. These remains are then gathered and painted red and during ritual dances, are placed inside a hollow log. Hollow logs are painted for the final burial ceremony using totemic designs specific to the deceased; the small hole painted at the top of this log provides the soul with a way to look out. The log is placed upright in the earth and left to naturally decay - thereby completing the burial cycle. The ceremony is most commonly called the Dupun ceremony.

    The two-headed snake - Mitukul or Mayku - is also featured in this work as is the artist's fish totem.
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