The country belonging to the Mangalili clan was founded in Ancestral times by the Guwak people. In the manifestation of the koel cuckoo the Guwak found the sacred Marawili tree to roost. Also passing this country was Nyapalinu the woman creator being. The form of this work is as a Wapitja or digging stick which is a reference to her.
Nyapalinu is a spirit woman who lived in Wangarr times, the Dreaming. Nyapilingu set out from Umbakamba (Groote Eylandt) in a paper bark canoe and travelled across to the mainland and then north and west as far as the central Arnhem Land coast. Wherever she went she marked the country with her activities. She is remembered by the people at these sites, who sing and dance her story.
Nyapiligu gave important culture to the people whose country she passed through. She wrapped herself in a sheet of paperbark so that men could not see her body, so women followed her in this. She used Wapitja (digging stick) to collect food and to peel the bark from the stringybark tree and she made containers from paperbark which she carried on her head. These are identified with her today. Nyapilingu also taught women how to look for the water lily 'yuku' and prepare it for eating, and how to make string and weave pandanus for bathi (dilly bags). The possum fur string which she wore in a cross shaped arrangement across her chest is a signature of hers and the industrially produced grey material around the carving are a metaphor for garters of the burrkun or possum fur string also. This belongs only to the Mangalili having many levels of meaning.
Nyapilingu is particularly important to Manggalili people. One of their most important sacred sites, Djarrakpi is associated with her activities. She also passed through Dhalwangu and Madarrpa country, and these people may also paint or dance her Dreaming. The part of her story belonging to each clan refers to her activities in that clan's country. In her travels through Manggalili country, Nyapilingu travelled with Marrngu (possum) and with Guwak (nightbird) making Manggalili totems, giving the people sacred objects and ceremony, and using Wapitja, her digging stick, for stripping bark from trees, and making Manggalili water holes - as she plunged her Wapitja into the ground, water would spring up.
Nyapilingu's blood is very important . Mourning at the first Manggalili funeral ceremony, she tore her scalp as women do today, and the blood flowed down into the clan waterhole at Djarrakpi. This is the blood of the Manggalili people- Mangalili spirit children come from this waterhole.
The artist's sister, Naminapu, in talking about Nyapilingu used the following words "Nyapilngu was our woman ancestor. She was really important to Mangalili clan because she travelled all over the place claiming land for Mangalili people, and also for Yirritja yolnu. She was really a special woman because she owned all those places and to us it is really important because every clan should have its own totems. Nyapilinu herself was an important miyalk (woman) because she was the only woman in the rest of the clan group who was really special to us as a woman ancestor. Ne (yes), for us Yolnu, our land-when you go to Djarrakpi, you see all the wana (land) that she went through... Messages come from the wana: it is like a spirit itself in the land... yolnu talking to land, and land talking to yolnu ga wayin (people and animals). That's how animals connect to human beings and human beings connect to land. People that have lived there a long time and then came back, that thing remains there, the spirit, the spirit of the people and the land itself. Yes, you can talk to your own land and the spirit can hear you.
Above this shore made sacred with this profound wash up is the Djarrakpi Yingapungapu ground. A Yingapungapu is a low relief sculpture, a feminine elliptical shape reminiscent of the hunter's canoe shaped into the sand. The bodies of the Guwak Hunters were ritually placed within the confines of the Yingapungapu serving the purpose of a shallow grave and the foci of a wider ceremonial ground. Over time malevolence and pure spirit of the body became separated through sequences of sacred song lines and danced re-enactments of what is still today rites performed for deceased Mangalili.
This artist Baluka is also the Mangalili clan leader. In his art he incorporates such essential elements associated with his peoples cosmos and simple but essential balances. Enormity can be found in the layered meanings of these works and the ability to incorporate such into art that so appeals has him the artist he is. In his sculptures life is with death, masculine and feminine is expressed with freshwater and saltwater.