Baru Dhawu (Crocodile Story) by Roy Burnyila

Baru Dhawu (Crocodile Story)

Baru (the crocodile man) , was from the Gumatj clan. People usually call him Gurdu Gurdu or Baru which means crocodile. He lived his life at a place called Yirrkala. Living near him were other people, and when Baru didn’t have enough to eat he began to kill and eat these other people. After a while others noticed that some people were missing. When Baru went to the toilet, the people could smell this strong smell, so they knew that he ate the other people. Some men went to get help and they took message sticks to the other tribes. Some were sending smoke signals. When they came to Baru’s camp they started to spear him in the left side of his ribs. He dropped in the fire and burnt his left hand and maybe his right hand. He then ran into the bush and yelled to his countrymen – the animals, birds and fish that live on the land and in the sea. He stopped and he named the tribes and clans and also the places until he came to a place called Gamarru/Guyurru. There he took a rest and said to himself “This is where I stop and call this place Gamarru/Guyurru”. Baru, still in pain from the fire, then jumped into the water and turned himself into a crocodile. The fire left scars on his back which are still visible today. Baru paintings belong to Gumatj and Warrawarra and also the Marpi clan. This painting is used at death ceremonies or initiations and it normally is painted on the belly, which means the person the design is painted on is part of Gurdu Gurdu (the crocodile people).