Mewal Dreaming by Stanley Djorlarra Rankin

Mewal Dreaming by Stanley Djorlarra Rankin

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  • Artist: Stanley Djorlarra Rankin
  • Title: Mewal Dreaming
  • Region: Maningrida
  • Moiety: Dhuwa
  • Language: Djinang
  • Size: 69cm x 90cm
  • Medium: Acrylic on Canvas


Stanley Djalarra Rankin works in the Lúrra Language and Culture team at Maningrida College. His father’s language is Djinang and his mother’s language is Wurlaki. Both of these languages are part of the Yolngu group, from country to the east of Maningrida. Stanley is also part of the Marrangu people, who share a songline that stretches from Ritjarrngu country on the Gulf of Carpentaria right up towardsthe mouth of the Blyth River. The songline also travels towards the east to Raymanggirr, a place close to Gapuwiyak owned by the Balkarranydji, who are another Marrangu clan. This songline celebrates the travels of Djarwarri, the Honey spirit and the spirit woman who is called Miwal by the Djinang Marrangu.

Different Marrangu clans have different names for this spirit woman.The Miwal story is sacred to the Marrangu Djinang people. Stanley is one of the ceremonial leaders of the Wurrkiganydjarr clan group and performs the songs that are part of this story in ceremonies throughout the Maningrida region.

Stanley is also the local producer for the Miwal Song Project which documents in song, dance and art the songline that connects many Djowunga/Dhuwa clan groups in Eastern and Central Arnhem Land.

The key themes of the song cycle are Miwal and Djarwarri, two ancestral travellers. Djarwarri is the ancestor for ‘wild honey’ (sugarbag), and much of the performative action in these songs centres on Miwal searching for the prized substance.

Stanley’s local group, the Wurrkiganydjarr, means ‘flower-power’ and refers to the importance of the stringybark tree and its flower, which provides the nectar used by native bees to make sugarbag.

The songs also reflect the seasonal cycle, topography and habitats of Marrangu country.

A long time ago, in the Dreamtime, a Spirit Woman called Miwal, and a Spirit Boy called Djambuwal left five tribes (called Marrakula, Marrangu, Gondarra, Rirratjingu and Djuruli). They came dancing along moving their heads right and left, with their bodies decorated in white.
They came to a place called Manguwi. Miwal gave the place that name, and then she started to cry like this, “yuu, yuu”.
Then they went up, dancing along. And they came to some short palm trees and danced around them, looking around for sugarbag.
They kept on dancing through the forest and they found a frill- necked lizard. They tried to catch it but the frill-necked lizard ran away. They cried and then the boy changed into a stone. This area is named Walkibimirri.
They heard another voice crying out at a place called Manamaningdjarri, a jungle area, and on the floodplains near Marlidjal and Bundadjarri (they are also spiritual landscapes).
Then Miwal came to the places called Djimbi and Malidjal. She came to a billabong and got some spike rush corms. She shared the bush tucker with the other spirit named Gumurringu on the islands Gurriba, Walarda and Balparnarra.
Miwal saw another two female spirits called Djangkawu. The Djangkawu spirit said to Miwal, “we will call each other grandmother and granddaughter”. Come with us and we’ll follow the sunset.”