George Malibirr
Gurramatthi (Magpie goose)
c. 1984

Ray Munyal
Gurrupurru (Diver-duck)
c. 1984

Before my birth my spirit was left in the totemic waterhole, where the ancestral spirit of my forefathers had always been. The spirit of the shark (dhuwa) and the spirit of the brown rock kangaroo (yirritja)--my mother's spirit--came together and put my spirit into a human body.

-- "My People's Life," by Jack Mirritji

For Aboriginal people water and waterways are of spiritual significance. The environments surrounding Ramingining include the Arafura Swamp, Yathalamarra and Gatji waterholes and the Djang'kawu Sisters springs scattered up the coast near the mouth of the Glyde River and Dhabila Creek.

The Djambarrpuyngu word gulun, used for billabongs, waterholes, pools, lagoons, and fresh water swamps, literally means "stomach," but also and more important it means "womb." The adjective gulunbuy means "of the belly" and is a synonym for the mother-child relationship. Waterholes are thought of as places full of life and the homes of the souls of unborn and deceased people. Newborn catfish are thought to be the souls of unborn people.

The waterholes at Yathalamarra and Gatji are said to have been created by the diver duck (Burala) that flew down and hit the earth with its beak. Jimmy Wululu's painting of ducks titled Diverduck (Burala) and the catfish it feeds on were inspired by these pools, strewn with waterlilies and other water plants.

A creative spirit in the form of fire and water swept the Arafura Swamp before the dog spirit (Djanyarr) created a stream, as seen in Peter Milayngu's bark painting titled Wild Dog (Wungan/wartu). The huge swamp that developed from this stream is home to a myriad of fish, plants, water birds, and crocodiles. Thousands of Magpie Geese nest in the shallow reedy waters at the end of the monsoon rains around April. The Gurrumba Gurrumba-Ganalbingu people's name literally means "flock of geese." George Malibirr's bark painting Gurramattji and wood sculpture celebrate this unique bird.