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Birlmu or Namarnkorl (Barramundi)

It is well known that Aboriginal art often depicts images of sacred totems or dreamings of Aboriginal culture. However, the world of the non-sacred also provides a rich source of subject matter for Aboriginal art. Much of the rock art of western Arnhem Land for example features secular topics such as common food animals and plants, depicted because of their economic importance but also merely because of their existence in the environment. The artist has painted ‘birlmu’ or ‘namarnkorl’ (Barramundi [Lates calcarifer]). During the dry season the barramundi is an important food source for inland Aboriginal people. These fish are caught throughout the artist’s clan estate, either in fishtraps woven from pandanus or sedge grass, or else hunted with spears and fishing lines in billabongs and streams where they shelter from the sun under fallen logs or amongst the leaves of water plants.

Name: Mathaniel Pascoe

Language: Burarra (Martay)

Community: Maningrida


Mathanial Pascoe is a sculptor and bark painter. He is Burarra Martay (dialect) and member of the Warrawarra clan, whose country centres around the site Gamurra Gu-yurra to the east of the Blythe River. He also has close connections with clan groups further east who speak Yan-nhangu and other Yolngu clan dialects. His primary subject matter is warraburnburn, a type of wangarra, 'ghost' spirit. He learned under the guidance of renowned Burarra artists and cultural leaders, Jimmy An-gunguna and Alec Wurrmala, but has developed his own stylistic variations in form and design. 

© the artist / art centre