Collection Online

Gumatj fire story at Blue Mud Bay

earth pigments on Stringybark (Eucalyptus sp.)
118.5 × 64.6 cm
Place/s of Execution
Yirrkala, Northern Territory
Accession Number
Indigenous Art
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the Utah Foundation, Fellow, 1990
© The Estate of Waitjung, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Gallery location
Not on display
Physical description
This painting tells the story of Bäru, the Ancestral crocodile who brought fire from Madarrpa country to Gumatj territory where an important ceremony was being held in the Ancestral period. A large fire started on the ceremonial ground which burnt Bäru, the crocodile man, who, in his pain, jumped into the water and transformed himself into a crocodile. The scars on his back, symbolic of fire, are still visible, as shown here. Diamonds are the traditional Yirritja design for fire, water and honey. In this painting they represent different intensities of fire. Red indicates flame, yellow the sparks, white the ash, and black the charcoal.