Don Gundinga
Yarrpany (Native honey - Dhuwa)
c. 1984

Jimmy Wululu
Niwuda (Native honey - Yirritja)
c. 1984

The bees were going to find themselves a home, which became the stringy bark tree. In the hollow interior of these trees they started producing honey: first they flew to the flowers of the bush--especially the flowers of the stringy bark trees--to collect the nectar and then turned to their "homes" where they made the honey. Mewal (the honey spirit), who was always looking for wild honey, followed the bees when they returned to their stringy bark trees and learnt where to find the sugarbag (honey).

-- Wurrkiganydjarr

Most bark paintings and sculptures are vertical, due to the vertical nature of tree trunks. The shape of the bark paintings mirror the vertical human frame. All the paintings in this section are on stringy bark; Don Gundinga's name means stringybark.

Since bark is a form of skin, it is painted with similar compositions to the paintings on the human body carried out in ceremonies. This bark is called galawu?also the name of the wet-season?based on the elevated shelters constructed from rough stringy bark sheets. On the inside walls of these houses, paintings were often undertaken to while away the time during heavy rain and these were the first bark paintings sighted by Europeans. Galawu also means arc, which refers to the arc of the roof and of the rainbow following the monsoon rains.

Another tradition of the Yolngu people regarding their relationship to forests was the burning of land often said to be "caring for the country." These controlled fires kill hundreds of thousands of trees each year, but this practice is not a form of disrespect for the environment. In fact many plants require fire for the dispersal of their seeds and regeneration. This form of land management represents a balanced way of living with the land and has proven much less destructive than the clearing that has taken place in other parts of the country since the eighteenth century.

A dominant dreaming of the Yolgnu involves honey, which is identified by four types; the main ones are yarrpan,y which belongs to the Ddhuwa moiety, and miwuda, which belongs to the Yirritja. Joe Djembungu's Native Honey-Yirritja (Niwuda) is one such example. The diamond pattern represents the full and empty cells of honeycomb while the dots represent bees and pollen balls of the host tree. The powers of the honey spirit are evoked in this pattern, which is painted onto the chests of participants in the related ceremony and on the bodies of the deceased members of the Yirritja moiety who are connected to the honey ancestor.