The Micrograph

Moth Sperm

The dark, kidney-shaped areas are called mitochondria, which provide the power to the structures composed of the circular array of dots. These nanoscale structures make the sperm tail beat so it can swim toward the egg and fertilise it. They are therefore essential to continuing the circle of life. For example, the witchetty grub (ngarlkirdi) is the caterpillar stage of the moth, Endoxyla leucomochla, which wouldn’t be able to breed successfully if these structures are damaged or absent.

Each circle of dark dots is 220 nanometres in diameter. (1 nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre).

Image: Greg Rouse

The Artwork

Witchetty Grub Dreaming

This painting depicts Napaljarri and Nungarrayi women collecting ‘ngarlkirdi’ (witchetty grubs) in an area known as Kunajarrayi (Mount Nicker) 200 km to the south-west of Yuendumu.

Witchetty grubs can be eaten cooked or raw and are edible in all phases of their life cycle. The design of this painting also symbolises important features of initiation ceremonies for young Japaljarri and Jungarrayi men. The area contains many caves (‘pirnki’) overlooking an important ceremonial site associated with the Ngarlkirdi Jukurrpa. This story belongs to the Nungarrayi/Jungarrayi and Napaljarri/Japaljarri Kinship Subsections.

In Warlpiri paintings, traditional iconography is used to represent the Jukurrpa, particular sites and other elements. Circular shapes are often used to depict the important sites for the ceremony and the long straight lines represent ‘witi’ ceremonial poles, which play an important role during the initiation ceremonies.

Artist: Jennifer Napaljarri Lewis, Warlukurlangu Artists of Yuendumu