Body Design II – Warrnyu Black Flying Fox Body Design


SKU: JB013 Categories: , ,


Johnny Bulunbulun is a senior member of the Ganalbingu group and is one of the most important singers and ceremonial men in north-central Arnhem land. His clan lands lie in the Arafura Swamp area, although he lives with the Burarra people at Wardeja. This is a Yirritja moiety painting which depicts warrnyu ‘the flying fox’ (Pteropus alecto). Warrnyu is the artist’s clan totem, and is shown here is the artist’s country. The panels of cross-hatched stripes represent the rocks in this country, and the black stripes represent water which springs from the underground. The floral-type patterning on these black stripes represents ngugarra ‘bat faeces’ which is significant to ceremony; it falls into the water from the high stones on either side of it where the bats live and play. This design is painted on men’s bodies for ceremonial purposes. The two orange cone-like shapes are painted over the shoulders, representing fire and the fire spirits, or jongke, which burn under the water. The stripes of cross-hatching at the top and bottom of the panels mark the upper and lower edges of the painted area on the man’s body. This design is used for funerals and young men’s circumcision ceremonies, when it is painted on the body of a man who has inherited the warrnyu as his clan totem. The same design is painted on the murrukunja, or ‘morning star pole’, used in the ‘morning star’ ceremonies of ritual diplomacy which are staged between clans throughout Arnhem Land. During these ceremonies the design may also be painted on men’s bodies. This version of the warrnyu design is associated with a flying fox site at a place called Djakaldjirrparl in the monsoon vine forest. It is similar but slightly different to the flying fox design from another site called Gutitjwirrka, also often painted by Bulunbulun. It is owned by the Ganalbingu clan and cannot be copied by anyone else. This print depicts the public or ‘outside’ parts of this totem, but there are also a number of secret or ‘inside’ aspects that must remain unrevealed.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Additional information

Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 65 × 9 × 9 cm
Image Size




Johnny Bulunbulun


Paper Size


Edition Size



Northern Editions, Darwin NT


Gilbert Herrada




Arnhem Land