Mother to Daughter: On Art and Caring for Homelands — 30 April to 6 June 2015

 

 
Marrnyula Munungurr, Djapu Gapu, 2015. 76 x 25 cm
Nongirrna Marawili, Rock and Seaspray, 2015. Bark painting, 77 x 78 cm

Rerrkirrwana Munungurr, Djapu Miny’tji, 2015. Bark painting, 45 x 37 cm

   
Malaluba Gumana, Garrimala, 2015, 88 x 22 cm. (4696F) Djurayun Murrinyina, Wukili, 2014, 22 x 80 cm. (4586C)

Djurayun Murrinyina, Wukili, 2014, 65 x 32 cm (4610F).

 
Banduk Marika, Yalangbara, 2014, 45 x 120 cm Ruby Djikarra Alderton, Yalangbara, 2012. Etching, image 20 x 25 cm, edition 30.  
 
Galuma Maymuru, Muthimuthi, 2014 (4628U). Bark painting, 174 x 93 cm. Photo credit silversalt photography.
Liyawaday Wirrpanda, Mana at Yalata, 2015 (4115P). Bark painting, 188 x 84 cm. Photo credit silversalt photography.
 
 
Mother to Daughter, Installation view, 2015. Photo credit silversalt photography. Malaluba Gumana, Dhatam at Garrimala, 2011. Larrakitj, 174 cm height. Photo credit silversalt photography.  

 

Mother to Daughter: On Art and Caring for Homelands is part of Future Feminist Archive, an expansive project for the 40th Anniversary of International Women’s Year (1975). The Cross Art Projects has planned a yearlong series of exhibitions to help investigate some of the many forms that a Future Feminist Archive might take and to review some changes over the past four decades.

In the late 1970s and 1980s across the Aboriginal art world radical changes made obsolete the divisive categories of urban versus traditional, or innovative versus static. One decisive moment was when some senior lawmen taught their daughters to paint sacred imagery onto bark at Yirrkala, an innovation that produced some of the most renowned Australian painters of the late-twentieth century; the other was the homelands movement enabled by the Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) in 1976. All artists work from autonomous homelands. Banduk Markia is affiliated with Yalanbara and Gulurnya homelands—the land on which the art centre stands.

Amongst the first women to paint sacred clan designs was Galuma Maymuru, instructed by her father the great Narritjin. Gulumbu Yunupingu was instructed by Munggurrawuy Yunupingu while Banduk Marika and her sisters were taught Rirratjingu clan designs by their father Mawalan Marika. Naminapu Maymuru-White was taught to paint Mangalili clan designs by two well-known Yolnu artists, her father Nanin Maymuru and her father's brother Narritjin Maymuru. They knew that the Indigenous cultural knowledge base and contemporary art was of inestimable value for Australia and the world and needed to survive the impact of the bauxite mine they had fought so hard to stop.

 

In the 1960s, Narritjin Maymuru set up his own beachfront gallery, an act of self-determination coinciding with the withdrawal of the Methodist Overseas Mission and the Land Rights Act of 1976 and Homeland movements. His founding vision of a Yolngu-owned art centre led to Buku-Larrnggay Arts. The museum’s great cultural icons are the Message Sticks from 1935 and the Yirrkala Church Panels and the Yirrkala Bark Petition of 1963.

One of the first to break the silence on art by tribally oriented Aboriginal women in feminist discourse was Banduk Marika who in 1982 mounted the first of several exhibitions of women’s work from Arnhemland at Seasons Gallery in North Sydney (which she ran with Jennifer Isaacs). Banduk continued her participation there until she and family returned to Yirrkala where she took over as manager of Buku-Larrnggay Centre.

All the mothers (and some daughters) have been finalists in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander Art Awards, the most eagerly awaited curated juried exhibition in the Top End calendar. Several have been prize-winners.The brilliant paintings that have resulted from these commitments detail the bonds between people and their heritage, making complex allegorical and moral references that show, as anthropologist Howard Morphy observes, 'the values of their way of life and the core structures of their society'. Generational shifts and changes in materials have transformed the ‘classic Yolngu aesthetic’, for example, by enabling brighter cross-hatching and the easy moves from body scale to ‘museum’ scaled work. Some artists, such as Naminapu Maymuru White and Gulumbu Yunupiŋu or Malaluba Gumana, paint in the now familiar secular styles of intricately repeated expanses of stars or water lily motifs. The shimmering surface urges us to look deeper into underlying connections and connotations, perhaps to reach further than the last stars.

 

These celebrated women, in turn, teach their daughters how to paint the minyitj of their homelands while working from these autonomous centres. The primarily Yolngu (Aboriginal) staff of around twenty at Buku-Larrnggay service Yirrkala and about twenty-five surrounding homeland centres. A screen print workshop and digital production studio give options for experiment. Most artists also teach or also do ranger work, Nongirrna Marawili, for example, is a senior advisor to children at Yirrkala school. Banduk Markia has served on the Boards of the National Gallery and Australia Council.

 

Of particular importance is the print workshop at Yirrkala, the dream of Banduk Marika. Here youngsters, such as her daughter Ruby Alderton, learn on the job by helping coordinate the printmaking processes. Yolngu artists continue to use art to fight for lasting rights and equality, resolute against the undermining of hard-won legal victories like the Land Rights Act, however inadequate these victories may prove. The exhibition is set against the background of predatory threats from governments to close remote communities, known as homelands. The Federal government's military-style ‘intervention’, undertaken hand-in-glove with the Northern Territory administration, emboldened resource-rich Western Australia to announce late last year the closure up to 150 communities — by denying basic services of water, power and schooling.

Writing on such an appalling state of affairs, Djambawa Marawilli, eminent artist and Yolngu cultural leader, says in ‘On Art and Caring for Indigenous Knowledge’:

'We are the archeologists and anthropologists. Our elders are passing on traditional knowledge in Yolngu and ancient Indigenous languages and university systems, which are still strong and real and rolling on. … We want Australians to properly understand that our traditionally grounded contemporary art is not principally about beautiful objects, but, with ancient patterns and designs, shares our living ancestral understanding and specific connection to Country. ...

The community Art Centre network across Australia is an outstanding example of contemporary Indigenous agency. Our inherited patterns and designs are our identity and also a "talking stick", title deed, weapon, and means of economic empowerment. Please join to walk with us.'

Download full text: Djambawa Marawilli, ‘On Art and Caring for Indigenous Knowledge’, ANKAA Arts Backbone, V14: Issue 2, January 2015.

 

 

The History of Experimental Printmaking at Yirrkala with Denise Salvestro, PhD Candidate at ANU, Saturday 6 June 2015.

 

 

Mother to Daughter Installation view, XAP 2015. Mother and daughter: Banduk Marika, Yalangbara, 2014, 45 x 120 cm and Ruby Djikarra Alderton, Yalangbara, 2012. Etching (framed). Mother and daughter: Gulumbu Yunupingu (dec), Ganyu, 2013, 80 x 28 cm and Dhambit Munuggurr. Far wall: Mother and daughter: Galuma Maymuru, Muthimuthi, 2014, 174 x 93 cm and Gunyan, 2014, 53 x 87 cm; Liyawaday Wirrpanda, Mana at Yalata, 2014. Photo credit silversalt photography.

Mother to Daughter Installation view, XAP 2015. Mother and daughter: Banduk Marika, Yalangbara, 2014, 45 x 120 cm and Ruby Djikarra Alderton, Yalangbara, 2012. Etching (framed). Mother and daughter: Gulumbu Yunupingu (dec), Ganyu, 2013, 80 x 28 cm and Dhambit Munuggurr. Photo credit silversalt photography
 

IMother to Daughter Installation view, XAP 2015. Mother and Daughter: Nongirrna Marawili, Rock and Seaspray, 2014 and Yathikpa, 2013 and Marrnyula Munungurr, Djapu Gapu, 2015, Djapu Gapu, 2013, and Djapu Gapu, 2014, 76 x 25 cm. Mother: Malaluba Gumana, Dhatam at Garrimala, 2009. Larrakitj, 217 cm and Larrakitj, 174 cm. Photo credit silversalt photography

Mother to Daughter Installation view, XAP 2015. (Left) Mother and daughter: Gulumbu Yunupingu (dec), Ganyu, 2013, 80 x 28 cm and Dhambit Munuggurr. (Right) Mother and daughter: Naminapu Maymuru-White, Mi\iyawuy- Milkyway, 2015, 112 x 33 cm and 195 x 42 cm and Narrawu Wanambi three small paintings. Photo credit silversalt photography
 

Mother: Banduk Marika, Yalangbara, 2014, 45 x 120 cm.     
Daughter: Ruby Djikarra Alderton, Yalangbara, 2012. Etching, image 20 x 25 cm. Mother to Daughter XAP 2015
. Photo silversalt photography

Rerrkirrwana Munungurr, Djapu Miny'tji, 45 x 37 cm.    
Rerrkirrwana Munungurr, Djapu Gapu, 2015, 59 x 39 cm. Daughter of Nongirrna Marawili.

Mother to Daughter, XAP 2015.Photo credit silversalt photography

 

Mother to Daughter Installation view, XAP 2015. Nongirrna Marawili, Yathikpa, 2014, 76 x 25 cm. Nongirrna Marawili, Rock and Seaspray, 2014, 77 x 71 cm. Nongirrna Marawili, Yathikpa, 2013, 148 x 78 cm.Photo silversalt photography

Mother: Mulkun Wirrpanda, Lutumba, 2013, 92 x 41 cm. Daugher: Yalmakany Marawili, Darrangi, 2012, 172 x 46cm, XAP 2015. Photo: silversalt photography

 

Acknowledgements
Thanks to the artists’ representative galleries for their support. Special thanks to the curatorial team at Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre (Will Stubbs, Kade McDonald and Andrew Blake) and to centre art workers for the artist biographies and artwork stories.

References
Vivien Johnson, ‘Interview with Banduk Marika, Sydney 1986’, in Dissonance. Feminism and the Arts 1970-90, ed., by Catriona Moore, Artspace, 1994.
Djon Mundine, ‘Saltwater’, in Saltwater: Yirrkala Bark Paintings of Sea Country, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala, 1999, p. 22.
Howard Morphy, Becoming Art. Exploring Cross-Cultural Categories, UNSW, 2008, pp. 50-51.

Links

Yirrkala Drawings at Art Gallery of NSW, to 23 February 2014 — http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/channel/exhibitions/yirrkala-drawings/

Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre at Yirrkala NT - http://www.yirrkala.com/

Mother to Daughter: On Art and Caring for Homelands, Sydney Morning Herald, June 6 2015 > Download pdf

Download: Patriotism, patriarchy and politics, 2015 feminism in context, Chloé Wolifson Art Monthly Australia, Issue 286, Summer 2015/16, pp 68-72

News on Stop Homeland Closures
Kimberley Land Council News Room at http://www.klc.org.au/news-media/newsroom/news-detail/2015
The Stringer, Independent News at http://thestringer.com.au/
SOS BlakAustralia, lobbies to oppose the threatened closure of remote Aboriginal communities by the WA State Government & Federal Australian Government at http://www.sosblakaustralia.com/

Videos
Speech by Gerry Georgatos on National Day of Action, Canberra, March 19 2015 (Six-minutes). https://vimeo.com/122621762
NITV interview of Jeff McMullen on 'Government sponsored land grab – "Pushing people off the Homelands"',  January 2015 (Three-minutes).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3Tdb3RSavw