Sword fish by Billy Black Durbuma

Sword fish

Billy is known for his fine Rarrk, the traditional cross hatching technique, originally painted with ochres onto the body for ceremony or when travelling around Arnhem land so people can identify who you are and where you are from. Billy’s fine Rarrk is something he is known for and it is very particular and unique to him and the fineness and quality of his work. Rarrk is painted with a fine hairbrush or with a special piece of grass. Billy grew up in Nangalala, his Fathers Country, on the Arafura Sea at the delta of the Goyder River, which is close to the Ramingining Community on the North East Arnhem Land. Traditionally men from Nangalala fish in the saltwater on the Arafura Sea. For this, they build wooden canoes (Barrawa). They cut a big tree (Gollo) and carve the trunk into a canoe with axes. They use them for fishing with paddles and spears. The Arafura region is a rich source of food where people continue to fish and hunt. On this painting the swordfish (Goywarrinna) is traditionally cooked in a paper bark on a Djungy (fire). It is a very big fish and it is enough food to feed one family. Barramundi (Ratjuk) is a popular food source in the area in sustaining people’s lives and are an intrinsic part of Yolngu health, survival and culture. Not just the sweet meat for eating but as well the bones are used in ceremonial and cultural practices. Billy chooses to represent animals and stories that reflect his totems and stories which he has inherited from both his father’s and mother’s families. Through painting he is telling these stories for his family and passing them on to the next generation. These are totems from Billy’s country.