Garak – the universe

Gulumbu Yunupingu2004

Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT)

Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT)

Gulumbu explained that some stars (gan'yu) are special for Yolngu. When she looks at the stars, she thinks about the universe, all around, and about every tribe, every colour. In every corner of the world people can look up and see the stars. This is Gulumbu's vision – in her art, she focuses on the link between all people everywhere. The link between people on earth and stars in the sky – it's real. Gulumbu links this idea to the Garma Festival, where people from everywhere can come and relax, look up and see stars.These three memorial poles are about two constellations that the artist was told about as a child by her father, Munggurrawuy Yunupingu. The first story is about two sisters called Guthayguthay and Nhayay. Guthayguthay is the elder sister and sits at the biggest fire, while Nhayay, who is the younger sister, has a smaller fire. The elder sister is able to carry bigger firewood than the younger sister who can only carry small firewood. In the olden days these two sisters used to be people, but they turned into stars that sit in the sky under the Milky Way. When the seasons here are hot, the two sisters argue and sit apart from each other with different fires. These arguments are often over a man called Marrngu. When the seasons are cooler, the two sisters are seen together sitting by one big fire. They are surrounded by more stars when they are sitting together. When you look in the sky long enough you will see two women figures sitting near two bright stars, which represent their fires burning. The second story is about seven sisters who went out in their canoe called Djulpan. During certain seasons they go hunting for food and always come back with different types of food – turtle, fish, freshwater snakes and also bush foods like yams and berries. They can be seen in the sky at night, seven stars that come out together. The stars come in the season when the food and berries come out, the stars will travel through the sky during that month until the season is over and they don't come out until the next season. Gulumbu's father told her about these seven sisters in a canoe, and the three brothers who came behind them, following them. They travel west. There are special stars in the sky that Yolngu call wishing stars. They give Yolngu bush tucker, they multiply the foods in the sea – that's why Yolngu are happy to see them. That's what Gulumbu's father told her. —Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre © Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory


  • Title: Garak – the universe
  • Creator: Gulumbu Yunupingu
  • Creator Lifespan: 1945 2012 -
  • Creator Nationality: Australian
  • Date: 2004
  • Type: Three-Dimensional Work
  • Rights: Purchased 2004, Telstra Collection, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory © licensed by Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre
  • Medium: natural pigments on stringybark wood
  • Geographical Region of Artist: Gunyungarra, North-east Arnhem Land
  • Exhibition: 21st Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award 2004
  • Ethnic Language Group: Gumatj
  • Dimensions: (1) 215 x 24 cm,(2) 222 x 19 cm,( 3) 214 x 13.5 cm
  • Collection: Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art
  • Award: Winner Telstra First Prize
  • Artist Ethnicity: Aboriginal

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