Yilpirr Wanambi, Marraŋu, 142x51cm Bark
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- Aboriginal Artist - Yilpirr Wanambi
- Community - Yirkala
- Homeland - Gurka'wuy
- Aboriginal Art Centre - Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
- Catalogue number - 4181C
- Materials - Earth pigments on Stringybark
- Size(cm) - H142 W51 D1 (irregular)
- Postage variants - Artwork posted flat and ready to hang with a metal mount for stability
- Orientation - Wired to hang as displayed but can be displayed horizontally on support frame
The Marrakulu and Marraŋu are closely related clans through madayin (sacred clan mythologies and law). Both tell of the felling of monumental trees by the honey ancestor Wuyal, the scouring out of a river course by the fallen log on its way to sea floods, and other apocalyptic events. For the Marraŋu at a site close to coastal Raymangirr is the mouth of this river and places of non-secular danger where freshwater fonts spring up into this tidal region. It has been said that if you go too close to this area you’ll become sick such is the malevolent power of this site. Mäpaṉ - Boils. A site of mosquitoes - they’ll waya mari (fight with spears into) the boil releasing the bloody muck. The sharp elliptical shapes on either side of the log are manifest of an instrument capable of piercing a boil and the miny’tji of these waters contaminated with the effluent. Inside the log, however, is the sweet native honey - guku.
In many ways, the harvesting and material production to create bark paintings is an art in itself. The bark is stripped from Eucalyptus stringybark. It is generally harvested from the tree during the wet season. Two horizontal slices and a single vertical slice are made into the tree, and the bark is carefully peeled off. The smooth inner bark is kept and placed in a fire. After firing, the bark is flattened and weighted to dry flat. Once dry, the bark becomes a rigid surface and is ready to paint upon.
Djawakan Marika, Yilpirr Wanambi, Wukun Wanambi and Nambatj Munu+ïgurr Harvesting stringybark for artists Photo credit: David Wickens
Wanapa Munu+ïgurr, Yilpirr Wanambi and Wukun Wanambi harvesting stringybark. Photo credit: David Wickens
Wanapa and Nambatj Munu+ïgurr firing a bark to start the flattening process. Photo credit: David Wickens
Arnhem Land paintings are characterised by the use of fine crosshatched patterns of clan designs that carry ancestral power: the crosshatched patterns, known as rarrk in the west and miny’tji in the east, produce an optical brilliance reflecting the presence of ancestral forces.
These patterns are composed of layers of fine lines, laid onto the surface of the bark using a short-handled brush.
Rerrkiwaŋa Munuŋgurr painting her husbands design Gumatj fire or Gurtha. Photo credit: Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
The artist’s palette consists of red and yellow ochres of varying intensity and hues, from flat to lustrous, as well as charcoal and white clay(pictured above). Pigments that were once mixed with natural binders such as egg yolk have, since the 1960s, been combined with water-soluble wood glues.
Naminapu Maymuru White collecting gapan white clay used for painting. Photo credit: Edwina Circuitt
Father is Wurrayarra, a son of Woŋgu. This young woman has worked as an artist for several years and is developing a precise hand on paintings of her own Djapu clan as well as her mother’s Maḏarrpa clan. Her mother is Burrtjalk. This is a summary of her mother's self-penned biography; "Born at Gurka’wuy and moved to live at Bäniyala with my mother (Djultjul) and father (Munduku`). When I was a little girl, when my father died we moved to Roper River and stayed for a long time, until I finished school. Then I went to Numbulwar and married Dhäkiyarr son of the great warrior Woŋgu Mununggurr, We lived at Numbulwar for many years, then moved to Yirrkala. I worked sewing girri (clothes) shorts, shirts, for school uniform for the (djamarrkuḻi) children. Then we moved to Garrthalala and my husband and I worked together painting bark and carving wood. Then we moved to my Mäḻu’s wäŋa (fathers country ) Bäniyala and worked at making an airstrip for our Homeland. Then we moved to my husbands wäŋa-(place) Waṉdawuy for good. I have 3 boys and 5 girls and lots of grandchildren." Yimula is a mother herself now and generally lives at Gunyuŋara (Ski Beach) where she is a full time artist.
Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre is the Indigenous community-controlled art centre of Northeast Arnhem Land. Located in Yirrkala, a small Aboriginal community on the north-eastern tip of the Top End of the Northern Territory, approximately 700km east of Darwin. Our primarily Yolŋu (Aboriginal) staff of around twenty services Yirrkala and the approximately twenty-five homeland centres in the radius of 200km.
In the 1960’s, Narritjin Maymuru set up his own beachfront gallery from which he sold art that now graces many major museums and private collections. He is counted among the art centre’s main inspirations and founders, and his picture hangs in the museum. His vision of Yolŋu-owned business to sell Yolŋu art that started with a shelter on a beach has now grown into a thriving business that exhibits and sells globally.
Buku-Larrŋgay – “the feeling on your face as it is struck by the first rays of the sun (i.e. facing East)
Mulka – “a sacred but public ceremony.”
In 1976, the Yolŋu artists established ‘Buku-Larrŋgay Arts’ in the old Mission health centre as an act of self-determination coinciding with the withdrawal of the Methodist Overseas Mission and the Land Rights and Homeland movements.
In 1988, a new museum was built with a Bicentenary grant and this houses a collection of works put together in the 1970s illustrating clan law and also the Message Sticks from 1935 and the Yirrkala Church Panels from 1963.
In 1996, a screen print workshop and extra gallery spaces was added to the space to provide a range of different mediums to explore. In 2007, The Mulka Project was added which houses and displays a collection of tens of thousands of historical images and films as well as creating new digital product.
Still on the same site but in a greatly expanded premises Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre now consists of two divisions; the Yirrkala Art Centre which represents Yolŋu artists exhibiting and selling contemporary art and The Mulka Project which acts as a digital production studio and archiving centre incorporating the museum.
Text courtesy: Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre
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